A new Salvation Army food relief program is helping to fill hungry stomachs in the school yard.
The Tribe Lunches Program has provided more than 400 freshly packed lunches to school students in the four weeks since it began.
Program coordinator Charlie Sam said it had provided relief for schools were feeding students coming to school without lunch.
“It was easy for schools to tell us the number of lunches they needed because they were dealing with it every day,” she said.
“At one school teachers would take money out of their own pockets to buy lunches for kids. Other schools would have sandwiches in the freezer to grill. I suspect parents know that happens and if they send their kids to school they will be fed and they can then afford to buy food for home.”
A Foodbank report released in April found one in five Australian children had experienced food insecurity in the past year.
I stress about kids not getting the food they need to learn.Food relief client
The Rumbling Tummies report revealed five per cent of food insecure children go to school without a packed lunch or lunch money at least once a week.
The Salvation Army Tribe Lunches Program provides around 45 lunches to five schools in Ballarat three days a week.
Each lunch pack includes a sandwich, piece of fruit and snack.
Ms Sam said the Salvation Army was successful in receiving a Ballarat Foundation community grant to run the program, which hoped to fill a service gap.
A Ballarat Community Health report Impacts of Food Insecurity in Ballarat found 36 per cent of people accessing charitable food relief have dependents relying on them.
“I stress about kids not getting the food they need to learn,” one client told Monash University researchers.
Ms Sam said Salvation Army acknowledged the report’s recommendation for improved accessibility to food relief and saw a need to service children at school.
“We assessed our meals program and realised school kids can’t access it because it is during school hours,” she said.
Each school involved has approached the program differently. One school asked for 18 lunches to supplement students who are coming to school with insufficient food, like a dry packet of two minute noodles.
Another school has contacted certain families and told them not to send lunch to school on certain days as a respite.
Tribe School Lunches Program volunteer Libby Huber said she has seen the impacts of the rising costs of living in her work at a supermarket.
“People tend to tell you their story. They’re saying there just isn’t enough money sometimes,” she said.
Foodbank data uncovered the major factor driving the growing need for hunger relief in Australia was the rising cost of living.
Unexpected bills or expenses (52 per cent) and house payments (38 per cent) were two of the most prominent causes of food insecurity in homes, the organisation found.
Ms Sam said the lunch program was working well in conjunction with existing breakfast programs at Ballarat schools.
“Food security is about providing safe, reliable, consistent food,” she said.