Dishing up tasty and nutritious meals for school children in Alice Springs, Hermannsburg and Mutitjulu is giving students a healthy start in their education.
Every day, Frontier Services prepares meals for nearly 250 children in seven schools across Alice Springs.
Another 150 children attending Ntaria School in the Aboriginal community of Hermannsburg enjoy three meals before they come home from school and 30 children in the Mutitjulu community have breakfast, morning tea and lunch.
Coordinator of the Frontier Services School Nutrition Program
Judy Kruske said it was a delight to know that, thanks to her team, more than 400 children have a meal prepared for them every day.
“The children look forward to the meal. It is a motivating factor for them to come to school,” Ms Kruske said. “It really does make a difference.”
Parents and teachers have found the children are healthy, attentive in class and excited about school.
The School Nutrition Program was introduced by the Federal Government in 2007. The program responds to significantly low attendance rates at school among children living in remote communities and town camps.
It is administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, in cooperation with local communities who partner with providers like Frontier Services. Eight Indigenous people are employed by Frontier Services under the program.
On any school day, the Frontier Services team prepares hundreds of meals at a scout’s hall in Alice Springs. The meals are packed into eskys and are delivered to the schools on two different runs.
In Hermannsburg, staff work in the school kitchen to prepare and then serve breakfast, a cooked lunch and a sandwich for the students.
The kitchen of the Frontier Services Mutitjulu Community Care Centre is also a hive of activity with meals delivered daily to the primary school next door.
“It has taken a lot of pressure off the schools that in the past were dealing with hungry kids, and often had to provide emergency meals,” said Ms Kruske. “The program has allowed them to focus on teaching – which is their priority.”
Ms Kruske said the feedback she received indicated the overall health of the children had improved and more children were coming to school on a regular basis.
“Part of that is thanks to the School Nutrition Program. The children really love their food.”
Hermannsburg community members rated the School Nutrition Program in the top three most significant changes introduced in the community since 2007 in a report prepared for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in May.
Community members involved in the study said the children were happier, healthier, more active and going to school more often.