Neil Thomson MLC
our future - our children

Report Recommends School Lunch Trial

Ever been hungry and tried to concentrate?  Too many children face the challenge of trying to learn while their tummies rumble. As the Deputy Chair of the bi-partisan Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People I visited communities from the South West to the the central desert to discuss the merits of lunch provision in schools ad part of a strategy to address food insecurity for children living in poverty.  

The scale of children suffering food insecurity is significant.  The 2022 Foodbank Hunger Report estimated that 208,000 households in WA face moderate or severe food insecurity and 116,000 children live in severely food insecure households.  This means over 17% of children and young people in WA are struggling to get adequate quality, variety and/or quantity of food.

This is a shocking statistic which we need to address.

Committee members visited 6 towns in regional and remote areas of WA, hearing from experts and communities that the inability to focus on learning impacts future income-earning capacity, continuing the cycle of poverty. The Inquiry found a lunch program may assist the most vulnerable kids break this cycle, but it needs to be in conjunction with effective food literacy programs.

The views of charity groups, teachers, health workers, academics, canteen managers, parents, multicultural groups, Aboriginal communities and around 500 students were also heard by the Committee

The report - Hungry for Change: Addressing food insecurity for children and young people affected by poverty -  has 24 Recommendations including:

  • Recommendation 8: The Department of Education takes the lead in establishing a pilot school lunch program targeting a selection of low socio-economic metropolitan, regional and remote schools.

  • Recommendation 12: The Department of Health should support food insecure pregnant women to receive the nutritional support they require to deliver a healthy birthweight baby. 

  • Recommendation 19: The WA Government prioritises the development and implementation of a child wellbeing strategy in Western Australia.

  • Recommendation 21: The Department of Health considers how it can provide in-kind, resourcing or financial support for the development and maintenance of the Food Stress Index and Food Atlas. 

In response to the Report, the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly, the Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People, directs that the Premier, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Early Childhood Education and the Minister for Planning report to the Assembly as to the action, if any, proposed to be taken by the Government with respect to the recommendations of the Committee.

I sincerely hope that we can address these issues – our at risk children deserve hope for the future.  

Thank you to all of the people that contributed to this important Report and my fellow Committee Members, Chair - Mrs Robyn Clarke MLA, and members Ms Rebecca Stephens MLA and the Hon Ayor Makur Chuot MLC.