On Tuesday 28 March, CatholicCare Victoria and St Anthony of Padua Primary School launched the Nourish and Flourish program at the school. With the goals of building thriving communities and disrupting disadvantage for local families in Melton South, the program offers three wellbeing programs—one being the breakfast club, which provides all students with a free meal in the morning, enabling opportunities for social connection and supporting mental and physical development.

More than 700 attendees, including students, teachers, parents, volunteers and community funding partners, gathered at the school hall, where the program is based.

The incredible Year 6 Student Leadership team hosted the launch event, which included a beautiful performance by the school choir, speeches by School Principal Damien Schuster and CatholicCare Victoria CEO Agnes Sheehan.

‘It has been estimated that one in five Victorian children arrive at school hungry, affecting their ability to learn and do their best,’ Agnes said during her speech.

St Anthony’s Primary School’s wellbeing team had also observed that there were children regularly starting their school day without breakfast, and so this idea evolved into the Nourish and Flourish program.

Nourish and Flourish was born in 2019, when nine families participated in a co-design workshop with CatholicCare Victoria to discover opportunities to support children and families, particularly families doing it tough. The breakfast club was one of the ideas resulting from this workshop.

Running on two mornings each week, the club is now hosting about 260 children at each session, and the program runs parallel sessions of aerobics and sport to encourage student wellbeing.

‘We believe that providing breakfast will also help improve children’s readiness to learn, engagement with their school, and concentration and memory in the classroom,’ says Ruth Knight, Manager Strategic Projects at CatholicCare Victoria.

A key principle of any school breakfast program is that it is free and available to all students at the school, to reduce stigma.

The Nourish and Flourish program is supported by a paid coordinator, as well as teaching staff and volunteers. CatholicCare Victoria provided seed funding for the coordinator role, and drew on professional expertise and connections for the program design and implementation phase. This included helping to source the program’s community funding partners.

‘We now have a number of local businesses funding the Nourish and Flourish breakfast club’, says Ruth. These include Woolworths Opalia, Baker’s Delight, Freddy’s Fruit, Bunnings Warehouse, Western Health, Melton Council and Mary MacKillop Foundation.

A café cooking program has also been developed by the school as part of the Nourish and Flourish program, and a community garden will also soon be established.

The launch concluded with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with the students all cheering as Damien, Fr Fabien and Agnes cut the ribbon and officially launched a program that is already helping to remove significant health and wellbeing barriers for children and young people.