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A big bowl of cereal and milk is bringing smiles and improving attendance rates in classrooms across the Territory thanks to a new school breakfast program.

Foodbank NT’s School Breakfast Program provided 1210 students with breakfast at the start of their school day last year during a six-month trial period that finished in December 2022.

The pilot program is funded by INPEX-led Ichthys Joint Venture and saw 5503 kilograms of food delivered with 18,052 breakfast meals over 10,750 kilometres across the Territory.

Foodbank NT Executive Officer Peter Chandler says the School Breakfast Program supported 26 schools during the trial despite a few hurdles, such as food shortages due to flooding and increasing fuel costs.

The success of the trial will see Vegemite and jam, toast, baked beans, milk and fresh fruit available for breakfast in even more Territory schools in 2023.

Peter says 11 schools are on the waiting list for 2023, with food drives supported by INPEX and donations from other organisations, including A2 milk, boosting the program to 47 schools.

The nutritious breakfasts, which are dietician-supported, are making a real difference in urban, remote and regional classrooms across the Territory, with teachers reporting increased school attendance and improved learning behaviours.

The School Breakfast Program was delivered in schools in Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine, Daly and Arnhem regions with students enjoying breakfast at school as far out as Laynhapuy in East Arnhem Land and Jilkminggan near Katherine.

“The School Breakfast Program has helped school attendance – class and school numbers are growing and, more importantly, remaining more consistent than they were before they had the breakfast program,” Peter says.

“It doesn’t matter how good your school program is, unless you can get kids into school they are not learning, and a school breakfast is a great way to get kids to school.

“It provides food in their belly that’s going to help the kids learn.”

Peter says the rising cost of living is putting more pressure on Territorians and charity organisations that support them, and Foodbank NT’s School Breakfast Program wouldn’t exist without the support of INPEX-operated Ichthys LNG.

“Before covid, Foodbank NT was putting out about 35,000 meals a month to people in the Greater Darwin area,” he says. “During covid that grew to 50,000 meals a month and now we are providing 53,000 meals – and this is steadily growing.

“There is a lot of need out there and we expect this to increase.”

In October 2022, INPEX team members from Darwin, Perth and Tokyo joined Foodbank NT to cook up a breakfast barbecue feast for 200 community residents and students in Batchelor to promote the benefits of the program to the local community.

“I think by supporting Foodbank, INPEX and Ichthys LNG are wise in choosing a charity that makes a difference, because every cent stays in the Territory.

“And when we think about the breakfast program, it is the next generation we are helping and through their investment, we are not only investing in today but also investing in tomorrow.

“Education is the road map to deal with our social issues of today and if school breakfasts are a key to get them to learn, then we should be investing in it heavily.”

INPEX General Manager NT Stuart Knowles says:

“At INPEX, we are proud to be contributing to positive outcomes here in the Territory, by supporting strategic social programs aimed at strengthening community vibrancy, skill development and economic resilience. 

“Our team works closely with community partners here in the Territory to develop a sound understanding of needs and where we can provide meaningful support through community investment.

“For INPEX, of importance is our employees and contractors building enduring relationships with our partners based on respect and mutual trust through volunteering and in-kind support.”