YMCA Food Literacy Program

Through partnership with QUT, the YMCA Schools Breakfast program will provide children with the opportunity to improve their food literacy, create positive long term nutritional habits and become agents of change.

Children require adequate nutrition to enhance immunity, realise their cognitive and physical potential, maintain healthy weight, and reduce future risk of chronic disease.¹ Further, there is evidence that good nutrition can impact positively on performance and behaviour at school.²

Food Literacy

The YMCA Schools’ Breakfast Program
Healthy Starts for Healthy Futures

In response to the number of QLD children disadvantaged by hunger and poor nutrition, the YMCA commenced a School Breakfast Program in 2006. Today the program supports 89 schools by providing food, equipment and support free of charge, so that schools are able to provide a breakfast program which in turn improves student academic, school community and behavioural out comes.

Food Literacy

Breakfast Program

Why a Food Literacy Program?

In addition to providing children with a healthy breakfast, the YMCA is seeking to leverage off its existing relationship with schools, parents and students, to further increase its impact by delivering a wrap-around nutrition program. It is recognised that breakfast programs, whilst highly beneficial, are only giving fish, whilst food literacy teaches children how to fish.

Fish to eat

The Need…

  • 94% of Queensland children do not meet the recommended vegetable intake.⁶
  • Nearly one-third of what Queensland children (2-18 years) eat comes from nutrient poor discretionary foods (junk food).⁶

Health stats
  • 29% of QLD children are overweight or obese.⁷ If unchecked, by 2025, 1.4 million Queenslanders (an increase of 200%) will be obese and at serious risk of negative health outcomes.⁸
  • In the short term obesity leads to social discrimintation, poor self-esteem and depresssion. In the long term obesity can lead to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.⁸

Our Solution

The YMCA will work with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) School of Exercise and Nutrition to: Design a Food Literacy Program:

  • Where the student is the change agent, for themselves and their family;
  • Through a participatory / co-design approach; and
  • That can be embedded into the School’s curriculum

The Project Model

Food Literacy Project Model

What is Food Literacy

What is Food Literacy

Program Objectives

The aim of this project is to connect the well-developed YMCA Schools’ Breakfast Program to a sound educational program around food literacy.


The proposed program, developed in partnership with QUT School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, will be founded upon a recognised and robust definition and a working model of food literacy⁹. To date there has been little reform under the auspices of the Australian Curriculum that truly develops and enhances children’s food literacy.

At a time when young people’s health is of national concern, this project will implement an educational initiative across selected participating YMCA Breakfast Program schools, and will be aimed at improving the food literacy of children as a life skill. The focus will be on the natural link between education and health.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

The program will benefit the wellbeing of children as they ‘make healthy decisions’ and become change agents within their community by assisting them to acquire real skills and knowledge about good nutrition.

The model’s low cost replicability will enable it to expand quickly across schools. The program will also develop the professional practise and skills of current and prospective teachers.

Health benefits of the children who participate will be life changing and intergenerational (lower rates of obesity and disease).


References 1. Queensland Health. (2005). Eat well be active-healthy kids for life. Retrieved August 2, 2016 from http://www.health.qld.au/ph/documents/hpu/29187.pdf. 2. Bellisle, F. (2004). Effects of diet on behaviour and cognition in children. Br J Nutr, 92 Suppl 2, S227-232. 3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2013). Census at School Australia. Retrieved April 5, 2017 from http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/CaSHome.nsf/Home/2013+CensusAtSchool+Summary+Data#T10 4. YMCA (2016). Schools’ Breakfast Program data collected from participating schools. 5. Foodbank. (2015). Hunger in the Classroom Report. Retrieved August 3, 2016 from http://www.foodbank.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Foodbank-Hunger-in-the-Classroom-Report-May-2015.pdf 6. Queensland Health. (2016). Health and Wellbeing Strategic Framework 2016 to 2026. Retrieved May 18, 2017 from https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/strategic-direction/plans/health-wellbeing 7. Queensland Health. (2014). Dept of Health. Child health status 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2017 from https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/443091/chs13-rpt.pdf 8. Smart Choices (2016). Retrieved May 18, 2017 from http://education.qld.gov.au/schools/healthy/docs/fs-urgency.doc 9. Rossi, A., Gallegos, D., Vidgen, H. (2016). QUT Food Literacy Proposal. A Food Literacy approach to good food choices and food behaviours in community based school breakfast programs.