Five burly school-leavers were reduced to tears as they thanked the women who co-ordinate the Kai Ora breakfast club at Mount Maunganui College.

Such was the impact a good meal had on their lives, not to mention providing a real incentive to come to school each day.

"They were in tears - massive 17 to 18-year-old boys in tears," said school nurse Lisa Ferris, who helps co-ordinate Kai Ora.

The breakfast club was formed three-and-a-half years ago by former school nurse Clare Wilson and now feeds 15 to 20 students each day between 11am and 11.20am.

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She noticed there was a group of students coming to school hungry which affected their learning, socialisation and general health.

Local businesses donated the food - Cafe 88 and Nosh - as well as private sponsors, with financial contributions from DentalPlus and Nautilus Shipping Agency Tauranga.

The students eat donated food from the cafes as well as cereal, milk and toast, paid for by donations.

Ms Ferris, who co-ordinates the club with the help of Jen Durham, said it was run by Year 13 students as part of their community service.

As such there was no stigma for students and despite initial concerns, the service was never abused by those who weren't in need.

"It means it's really accessible to kids. I think that's what makes it cool."

The rising cost of rent and food meant in some households students only received one meal a day, she said.

"Boys, in particular, there isn't enough food to fill you and cheap food doesn't fill you. It's white sugar related, easily burnt off - an hour later you're starving."

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Because of renovations at the school, the club recently moved to interim premises and put out a call on Facebook for a new fridge and indoor and outdoor dining furniture to make the environment more "homely".

Ms Ferris said the response was overwhelming, and the school had received an offer to do up the club's permanent new home in a few months time.

Mount College took a holistic approach to their students, she said.

"Russell Gordon's [the principal] main priority is the welfare of students here. We have to look after each other; we're a community," she said.

Cafe 88 manager Toya Desai said the business donated food to Kai Ora and it was always warmly appreciated by the school.

"It's just a good way to put the left-over food to good use really. It's better than letting it go to waste, and it's a really good cause."

The cafe food, which is made fresh each day, was also a massive treat for the students, she said.

"I would have been stoked to have that at school."