The whizz of a smoothie machine, the clank of spoons hitting bowls and the smell of freshly-cooked toast fills the air at Te Kura O Matapihi every morning. Although these are not things one usually expects to hear at school, this is the reality for many schools supported by youth organisation KidsCan. Children run from the school bus beaming as they arrive to fill their tummies at the school's breakfast club, provided by the organisation.

Big kids help the little kids spread their toast, and siblings and friends chat as they eat their cereal.

Te Kura O Matapihi principal Tui Rolleston said almost the whole school took advantage of the club and, since it began, she had noticed an improvement in concentration and behaviour in the classroom as no child was going hungry.

For the past four years, the school has been involved with KidsCan, which provides breakfast, lunch, health items, shoes and even raincoats for children who need them.

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KidsCan supports 741 schools across New Zealand and 10 in Tauranga.

Diane Inkster, a parent who helps at the school's breakfast club, hates the thought of children sitting in a classroom with an empty stomach.

Tayler Quinlan-Hona, 6 (left), Mia Quinlan-Hona, 6, and Leighton Quinlan-Hona, 6, enjoying some warm breakfast before school. Photo / George Novak
Tayler Quinlan-Hona, 6 (left), Mia Quinlan-Hona, 6, and Leighton Quinlan-Hona, 6, enjoying some warm breakfast before school. Photo / George Novak

She said a nourishing breakfast was exactly what a child needed to start the day and, without the programme, she was certain a large number would go without.

Giving the children the option to make and eat breakfast with their friends was also a good way to abolish any "haves and have nots", she said.

Pupil Mikaere Webster makes sure he is at breakfast club bright and early every morning to do his bit to help.

The 10-year-old has become the master of the toaster and loves being able to help feed the little ones as "it helped them grow big and strong".

Merivale School principal Tom Paekau said breakfast and lunch clubs were the
Merivale School principal Tom Paekau said breakfast and lunch clubs were the "best thing for education". Photo / File

Merivale School, a decile one school in Parkvale, also receives help from KidsCan.

Principal Tom Paekau said he could not speak more highly of the organisation.

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Children could come to school for a hot breakfast whenever they wanted to, she said. In the colder months, the number of children needing the meals increased and being able to provide it "took the pressure off" some families' winter costs.

Paekau said the meal clubs were the "best thing for education" as no child could concentrate on their work with "constant hunger pangs".

Gate Pa School principal Richard Inder said KidsCan worked hard to
Gate Pa School principal Richard Inder said KidsCan worked hard to "bridge a gap in schools". Photo / File

KidsCan's founder and chief executive Julie Chapman said winter was especially tough for children living in poverty.

"They struggle to get to school and to concentrate on learning when they don't have decent shoes and they're cold, wet, and hungry."

She said if we do nothing, the poverty cycle continues.

Gate Pa school principal Richard Inder said KidsCan worked hard to "bridge a gap in schools" that was important for children growing up.

He said almost every child at his decile two school received a raincoat from them, which kept them "warm and dry" and looking stylish as they had various sporting logos on them.

They also provided hardcover shoes for many students, as many only had things like jandals or slides, which were not appropriate for some school activities or when it was frosty out.

"Things are hard out there and I can really appreciate some families are struggling."

KidsCan fuel an average of 31,000 children a week nationwide with baked beans, bread, spreads, fruit, yoghurt, supergrain bars and scroggin.

By July, the charity will have supplied 37,000 rain coats, and 20,000 pairs of shoes to children across the country.