Educators say parents would be ‘disgusted’ to know what their children are being fed at some Australian childcare centres, with claims kids are ‘going hungry’ and eating food off the floor due to paltry food budgets.

The United Workers Union surveyed 388 workers in early childhood education, including cooks and directors, with almost half claiming the children at their centre aren’t provided with enough high-quality food.

Also revealed in the report Children Going Hungry, the food budget at some centres is as low as 65 cents a child, with the average overall for food budgets at $2.15 per day, per child.

“As a parent, I would be disgusted to know what was served each day taking into consideration the daily fees that are paid,” said one survey respondent.

Another survey respondent said children are being offered rice and pasta at every meal ‘due to cost, not nutritional value’.

“Given the guidelines that need to be followed by Nutrition Australia there is not enough money to go around,” said another survey responder. “We swap out quality meat for cheaper cuts and get vegetables and fruits as seconds, not to mention trying to ensure children with special dietary requirements and allergy have what they need. How is it fair to charge a family so much then only allow $1.80 a day for food?”

‘Children are eating off the floor’

Other childcare employees said the children ‘are always still hungry’, which impacts their behaviour, with claims children are getting ‘cheap food with lots of additives’ or they’re being told to ‘give the kids crackers with their food to fill them up’.

“There is not enough, and if parents were made aware of children eating food off the floor because they were hungry, they would remove them from the centre.”

United Workers Union Director Early Education Helen Gibbons said spending as little as 65 cents on a child for food is a ‘disgrace’.

“Parents in Australia pay some of the highest out-of-pocket costs in the OECD. Yet many centres, especially among for-profit providers, are cost-cutting to increase profits while children go hungry.

“Educators who cannot stand to see children without enough to eat are buying food staples out of their own low wages, in a sector that is unsustainable for workers, children and parents. This cannot be allowed to continue. Parents deserve to know how much of their fees are being spent on feeding their children.”

The union is calling for urgent action on early education food budgets.


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  • Childcare and Aged Care is just in a terrible condition at the moment


  • Nine doesn’t provide food so I can’t complain about quality of food.


  • This is true!

    I have worked in a Child care Center and I was paid $18 an hour
    Children didn’t go hungry but the food wasn’t healthy macaroni cheese, or rice dishes with packet sauces hardly any fruits or vegetables
    Very low budget for food and staff are paid terribly.
    These organisations are making so much profit and giving nothing in return.
    Age care is even worse!


  • This story really upsets me. There are recipes for beautiful healthy meals these days. 5 healthy ingredients from the old pyramid are not hard to factor into any budget. Please look into your pantry and fridge and when you do see a healthy smile.


  • Sounds like these centres need to be closed down. My daughter has seconds at her daycare. You should always check these things before enrolling


  • This is disgusting! Something needs to be done!


  • This is shocking to read and I really hope that it’s not true.
    We pay a fortune to send our son there and if I found out that he wasn’t being fed correctly then I’d be pulling him out straight away.


  • This has got to be a joke. Many families have to take on extra work just to pay for fees. We need regulators to step in and thoroughly monitor how children are treated in childcare facilities.


  • I hope this isn’t true. If it is, where is the regulation? standards? etc. The cost is so high and food is such a basic necessity.


  • I’m absolutely shocked! The fees are so high and kids are going hungry? My kids never went to daycare because of long waiting lists and cost it was just easier for me to stay home. I really feel for parents that have no choice but to send kids to daycare, pay all that money and still have no guarantee the kids are being properly fed.


  • So pleased my children are beyond this stage now. Many of these centres should be shut down along with Age Care homes that are just as bad.


  • Wow that is so appalling. Really these child care centres should be more accountable – dope them in to parents so some form of action can be taken. It makes you wonder – profit is more important than the welfare of a child.


  • Profits above the children’s welfare. How disgusting.


  • “Children are eating off the Floor”…sounds like a third world country.


  • They may as well reduce prices and let parents provide lunch if thats what their gonna do. Poor kids! This is why I umm’d and ahh’d over whether or not to send my son to daycare..


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