Latrobe High School breakfast club is nourishing 100 students, three times a week, in a frantic 45 minutes before the madness of the school day begins.
The cheese toastie production line is in top gear at 8:10am when the first bus disgorges its barely-awake passengers who shrug on backpacks and amble into the cafeteria. There’s lots of hat hair and yawns as they approach the serving table at the back of the room.
Everyone is still warming up along with the weather, just north of 10 degrees celsius when they saunter through the door.
They come from far and wide: Port Sorell, Railton, Sheffield and Devonport; converging on the cafeteria after a too-early start; a safe space for the early risers and the night owls to chill before class. It’s simple fare: cheese toasties, Milo, juice, apples and banana muffins, but the food creates a connection point, a place to prepare for the unknowns ahead.
The Year 10s in their leavers hoodies sit on one side of the hall while everyone else sits in small groups dotted around the cafeteria. A few sit on their own. The vibe is relaxed and casual.
Breakfast and conversation
Breakfast and conversation ends at 9:45am when Imagine Dragons’ Believer breaks the spell and calls the faithful to class. It’s so much gentler than a blaring bell.
For some, the toasted sandwich is a second breakfast, for others it’s the breakfast they didn’t get time to eat at home, while for others it’s the only breakfast they were ever going to get.
Nourishment more than food
Whether it’s physical, relational or emotional hunger, everyone gets fed.
Chaplain Dale Saunders says each week students consume 24 loaves of bread and an equal number of litres of milk, 16 litres of juice, two kilograms of fruit, and 12 packets of cheese singles. Food is delivered on Mondays and stored in a locked fridge.
He is helped by a couple of adults and two long time student volunteers, Victor and Alexa.
“We could easily do five days a week if we had the volunteers to help,” Dale said.
“It’s an important start to the day; for students to connect, to get some food before having to study, and allows me to build relationships and check-in on students.”
Dale, who has been school chaplain for just over a year, spends five mornings a week at the high school and five afternoons at the primary school, so he is a familiar and welcome face.
Breakfast foods, including cereal, are also left in the Learning for Life room across from the cafeteria for students who don’t have any food or money.
Dale and the teaching and support staff will steer students to the upstairs pantry as they identify needs.
Latrobe High School Principal Sarah-Jane Tregenza acknowledges the pivotal role that Breakfast Club plays within the school community. “On Breakfast Club days, students know that they can start their school day with a hearty breakfast, warm smiles and a caring conversation.
The Breakfast Club community at LHS goes far beyond providing fuel for students’ bodies. Breakfast Club is a supportive space where students feel a strong sense of belonging and can get their school day off to a great start.”
Devonport Chaplaincy, serving food supplied by sister organisation Loaves and Fishes Tasmania, manages more than a dozen breakfast clubs in the North West.