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Children participating in the inaugural International School Meals Day at an elementary school in Maryland, the United States. School breakfast programmes are beneficial not only to children and teachers but also the community.

RECENT news reports suggest that Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik is looking at introducing a school breakfast programme in schools.

The New Straits Times reported that the ministry was looking at providing free nutritious breakfast for children from the Bottom 40 per cent income group (“MOE to study free breakfast scheme for children in B40 group” — NST, Nov 6, 2018).

School breakfast programmes have been initiated in the United States, Australia, Europe and South America.

Research shows the programmes benefit students in terms of health and nutrition, and academic performance, and enhance community-building.

According to the 2018 Second Annual Massachusetts School Breakfast Report Card, eating together helps build bonds of trust. This is echoed by teachers and school administrators across Massachusetts.

They find eating breakfast together as a class to be a valuable morning social and emotional check-in with students that helps build community.

It is a fact that many children go to school hungry. The following are the key findings of a report produced by Foodbank Australia:

TWO-THIRDS of Australian teachers (67 per cent) reported having children come to school hungry or without having eaten breakfast;

ON a typical day, three students in every class will arrive at school hungry or without having eaten breakfast;

TEACHERS estimate that the average student loses more than two hours a day of learning time when they come to school hungry; ON the basis of arriving at school hungry once a week, that student will lose in excess of a whole term of learning time over the course of a year;

FOUR out of five teachers (82 per cent) report an increased workload due to hungry students as the children find it harder to concentrate (73 per cent), are lethargic (66 per cent) or have behavioural problems (52 per cent);

SCHOOLS providing breakfast to students overwhelmingly believe this contributes to students’ physical (97 per cent) and mental health (91 per cent);

SCHOOLS with breakfast programmes believe they impact positively on student relations with staff (83 per cent) and the broader community (70 per cent); and,

EVERY kilogramme of food given to a child via a school breakfast programme in Australia provides a long-term social return on investment of A$110 (RM322).

It must be noted that the findings which Foodbank describes can be found in extensive global literature on the subject. Breakfast programmes have positive health, learning and social effects on students.

In Malaysia, the proposed school breakfast programme is good news for students, parents, teachers and the nation. This is a doable initiative that has proven to be practical and beneficial to children around the world.

Melbourne, Australia

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