For the past five years, hungry children have been arriving at Manurewa South School knowing that a bowl of cereal, glass of milk or Milo and hot toast were waiting for them before they started class.

It was something that not only filled plenty of hungry tummies but helped many children get through the school day. But now that has come to an end.

Countdown's withdrawal from the Red Cross breakfast programme means dozens of schools around the country have to find other ways of feeding hungry students.

A majority of schools have joined the Kickstart programme, which provides two breakfasts a week, but some have been left wondering what to do.

At Manurewa South, principal Nola Hambleton said there were no other options that came even close to replacing the Red Cross programme, so the school had written to parents warning them they were on their own.

Ms Hambleton said it was a difficult position for the school to be in.

On the one hand, she believed it was not up to a school to feed children and parents should be better educated on things such as budgeting and the importance of providing their children with a good breakfast.

On the other hand, she knew all too well that it became the school's problem when children were hungry and not learning as a result.

"We have been running breakfast in schools for about five years. There was another programme before Red Cross, but we have always had some programme."

Ms Hambleton said the school started offering breakfasts after noticing a large number of children coming to school hungry, or eating the wrong kind of breakfast.

"There was a large number of children in our school who were having inappropriate breakfasts - like buying a $2 pie at the dairy - or having no breakfast at all. We know that the first meal of the day is going to set the students up for success throughout the day and their learning certainly improves."

Ms Hambleton said the school found that children who had not eaten breakfast were often lethargic. The ones who had breakfast were more focused and interest in learning improved after eating.

She said the Kickstart programme offered breakfast only two days a week and the school would need more space to store milk, so it was not really an option.