Meal service demands explode in 2023

December 6, 2023 BY

Long serving volunteer Robyn Laurensen in the kitchen. PHOTO COURTESY OF KATE HILL

“No child can study, concentrate, or achieve if they are hungry.” That is the assessment of Grant High School Wellbeing Centre’s Mandy McIntyre and that is why the school has tapped into the Spare Ya Change 4 Kids program – one of 25 schools across the Limestone Coast.

The Mount Gambier based charity has seen an explosion in service provision, increasing its pool for schools from six schools at the beginning of this year to the end of year 25 school tally.

Spare Ya Change 4 Kids provides meals for school students, whipping up the nutritious packed meals in the kitchen of the Mount Gambier Italo Australian Club fortnightly, powered by a hard working band of volunteers.

“The meals provided have made enormous differences to some student behaviours at school,” Mrs McIntyre said. “If a child goes to bed hungry, they don’t sleep well, they come to school foggy, angry, tired. all of which make it almost impossible for a child to concentrate and absorb learning material.

“Grant High has been accessing the services for a couple of years now, ever since they began the service.

“We have a varying number of families who benefit from the meals, and it changes with economic pressures. I would say we have in excess of 15 families who access this on a fairly frequent basis, but we do however also provide families with a comprehensive list of other services available in Mount Gambier who can assist to get them back on their feet as we do not want to develop a climate of reliance.”

Spare ya Change 4 Kids board member and volunteer Lesley Okholm said the charity has worked hard to forge relationships with fellow charities and organisations.

“With the help of Foodbank, we’ve established hubs in Naracoorte and Millicent and made the service more accessible, so we’ve jumped from 300 meals a fortnight to around 900 a fortnight,” said the former school principal.

“Foodbank provides some of our produce and delivers to outlying areas and in return, we give them 100 meals each fortnight.”

Ms Okholm said there were frequently misconceptions around what determined an area of need for the service.

“It’s not only the schools you think have hungry kids that have hungry kids,” she said. “We are determined that all kids in the Limestone Coast should get a solid, balanced meal once a day.”

Mount Gambier Education Director Ruth Schubert said the charity organisation was now well established in the region

“We know that when our young people are nourished, they are better able to learn, so we fully support this charitable venture and their efforts to expand and ensure that no child goes hungry,” she said.

Many of the volunteers, have been with the charity since its inception five years ago, when they were a small group working from a home kitchen.

The meals are frozen and transported to schools around the district, and also the Limestone Coast Homelessness Service, operated by at the Mount Gambier Community Centre.

The registered charity relies on donations of produce, financial support to pay for protein and pasta meal elements and most importantly, the generous donation of time from long-time volunteers and skilled chefs.

“The chefs that have stepped up have been amazing, and we’ve got volunteers like Robyn, Louise and Janine that have been with us since we began five years ago, and seven new volunteers this year,” Ms Okholm said.

“It’s a team effort and we value the contributions of every single person that donates their time, every business that helps us out with produce and every single donation that comes in the door.”

To donate to Spare Ya Change 4 Kids, visit this site: