As the devastating impact of COVID-19 reverberates throughout society, Australian charity Feed Appeal has heeded advice to extend its One = One campaign to support rural schools and provide disadvantaged kids with free meals.

Schools are being invited to run a One = One fundraising day between 17 August and 11 September, where every dollar raised will go towards supporting Feed Appeal’s Rural Schools Grants Program.

The program has already received 90 applications from schools across the country in every state and territory.

“If we were able to fund all of those applications, it would create more than 150,000 meals for students in the coming year,” Feed Appeal CEO Katherine Gokavi-Whaley says.

“One hundred per cent of what's raised goes into the grants, so none of it gets eaten up in administration or anything.”

Gokavi-Whaley says with many people experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic, 50 per cent more families are reaching out for food relief this year.

She says that around 70 per cent of those currently seeking food relief are doing so for the first time.

“About 70 per cent of those students are doing it for the first time, so they were normally students where their families could afford meals but are unable to now due to job losses and business downturn, particularly in rural communities.

“What's happening at the moment is that a lot of teachers are bringing in extra food, or using their own money to help provide meals for students."

The School Council at Caloundra State High School are planning their One = One day.

Gokavi-Whaley says one in eight students are going to school every day without breakfast and/or lunch and this is having a significant impact on their learning.

She says the circumstances are worse in rural schools.

“The need has definitely grown in rural communities … They've been impacted by COVID, plus either the bushfires or the drought as well.

“We've got a handful of schools, in particularly remote locations that are telling us that they're feeding all of their kids every day… it's a pretty challenging time.

“So we decided that one way we could help is to provide some grants to the schools to help them either run a more effective, or increase the size of their school breakfast or lunch club.

“The way that we're looking to fund these grants is through a campaign that empowers students to be part of the solution.”

As part of the One = One campaign, Feed Appeal will give schools access to educational material on food relief so that they can incorporate the campaign into their curriculum.

“We've tried to make it as simple as possible for schools, so there's even a PDF for them to easily download and put into their newsletter,” Gokavi-Whaley says.

“Schools will also get a certificate at the end thanking them and telling them what we've actually done with the money that they've raised in their local community.”

Caloundra State High School teacher Janeine Stibbe speaks about the Rural Schools Grants program.

With the current school closures in Victoria, Feed Appeal is calling for direct online donations to help fund 30 schools in the state which would provide 50,000 meals.

“Obviously, with Victoria, it's challenging because we're in an online environment at the moment so schools aren't able to run a physical day at the school,” Gokavi-Whaley says.

“So we've established that if kids in Victoria still want to help fund the Victorian schools, we're encouraging our families and kids to donate directly.

“Even if it's one dollar, that dollar will go a long way in providing a meal for those who need it.”

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