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TEACHERS are spending up to $200 a week of their own money on food for students coming to school without breakfast or lunch.
A Bendigo Foodshare survey found that per school, on average, 10 to 40 students regularly went without breakfast and five to 20 didn't have lunch.
The survey was distributed to 16 central Victorian schools and completed anonymously.
It found teachers were regularly dipping into their own pockets to buy food for hungry students - costing hundreds of dollars each year.
Bendigo Foodshare operations manager Ray Butler said the findings didn't come as a surprise.
"When I started in October last year, Foodshare had eight schools registered with us but that then started to increase very quickly," he said.
"Schools were coming in for cereal and bread for kids' breakfasts.
"One teacher said, 'I buy food every day'. They were all saying the same thing."
Mr Butler said one teacher told him of a student who hurriedly ate the many pieces of toast the teacher gave him on a Monday morning.
The teacher subsequently discovered the student hadn't eaten anything since the Friday before, when the teacher provided him with lunch.
"It's developing a whole generation of semi-literate people," Mr Butler said.
"If you don't have enough nutrition, your brain can't develop properly and you can't learn."
Foodshare now supplies food to 40 central Victorian schools, the majority in Bendigo.
Many use the bread, fruits and cereals to host breakfast clubs and to have spare food in stock for children who come without lunch.
Campbells Creek and Guildford Primary Schools principal Narissa Leung said teachers were spending money on canned food, bread, fruit and milk.
"We definitely spend money ... that's across all schools. That's common in all schools to take extra food because kids come to school with no food," she said.
She said her schools started getting supplies from Foodshare at the start of the year, allowing them to start a breakfast club.
"It's been a really positive thing for our community," she said.
"For us the breakfast club is about encouraging kids to come to school and make sure they get there before it starts."
She said her school had high rates of absenteeism, which the community was trying to improve.
She said the breakfast club program had been a tremendous success, with as many as 30 students at Campbells Creek primary - population 115 - attending the club each day.
"The food they provide us with - like yoghurt - are things (students) wouldn't necessarily have access to at home," she said.
She said while most food was now provided to her schools by Foodshare, teachers continued to spend their own money when supplies ran out.
“At the start of the year you spend $200 to get your classroom looking nice," she said.
"When kids run out of books you buy more … that’s just normal.
“Things have changed.”