A ‘Magic Breakfast’ to Eradicate Hunger for School Children
Did you know that half a million UK pupils arrive to school hungry or malnourished?
That’s half a million children ill-prepared for learning and education in a first-world nation!
As shocking as that might sound at first, what’s even more shocking to learn is that only last year, six million breakfasts were provided to more than 31,000 children at over 470 schools in England alone.
And these six million breakfasts were only made available thanks to the unprecedented work of a single charity organisation – Magic Breakfast!
Dedicated to “reaching, without barrier or stigma, children in disadvantaged areas who are at risk of hunger or malnutrition at the start of the school day”, the charity was established by Carmel McConnell who, while researching for a book way back in 2000, was also left “shocked” to learn from five headteachers in the London Borough of Hackney “that many of their pupils arrived at school too hungry to learn”.
In an effort to do her bit, “Carmel started buying and delivering breakfast food to these five schools”. As demand grew in 2001, she was forced to re-mortgage her house before founding Magic Breakfast in 2003.
Today, while there are over 480 Magic Breakfast partner schools – primary, secondary, SEN schools and Pupil Referral Units, there are still a staggering 300 more on the waiting list “requesting urgent food aid”.
But Magic Breakfast’s goal of ensuring that, by 2020, all children across the country start their lessons well fed is such a simple one too.
Currently, a “magic” breakfast costing just 22p, and comprising of cereal, porridge, bagels and fresh fruit juice, can provide a hungry child with the nutritious and healthy start to the day he or she rightly deserves.
And FtL wanted to find out more about the charity’s incredible work, including its concept, ethos and future plans.
1. How important really is breakfast for a school child?
Magic Breakfast charity was set up because our founder, Carmel McConnell, spoke to five headteachers in East London who all told her that the biggest barrier to teaching in their schools was children arriving hungry, unable to concentrate – some fainting, some aggressive – leading to hours of lost teaching time each morning. There is robust, published evidence too of the power of eating a healthy breakfast in terms of educational attainment. Independent, randomised controlled research by the Education Endowment Foundation, carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, found that pupils in schools with Magic Breakfast clubs made as much as two months’ additional progress in reading, writing and maths over a year, compared to children in schools with no such breakfast provision.
The biggest barrier to teaching in their schools was children arriving hungry, unable to concentrate … leading to hours of lost teaching time each morning.
From a health point of view, every meal a child has through the day provides an opportunity for their body to get the vitamins and minerals they need to function properly. Children who miss breakfast are less likely to meet their nutrient requirements by the end of the day. They are also more likely to consume more junk food through the day and to snack on items that are high in fat, salt and sugar, and low in nutritional value. Children who eat a healthy, filling breakfast are less likely to overeat at lunch.
2. How many breakfasts has Magic Breakfast provided since its inception in 2003?
Goodness, this is a difficult one! Can we answer this by saying that this school year we will be providing over 6 million breakfasts to more than 31,000 children?
3. What’s the single most heart-warming story you can share as a result of the efforts of your charity work?
Each year, staff at our 475 partner schools fill in a survey measuring the impact that our breakfast provision has on their pupils. The feedback we get makes us want to try all the harder to ensure every child at risk of hunger receives a healthy breakfast every school day. Here is one such story:
One teacher was worried about a girl who was very hungry in the morning and was not at all alert and ready to learn. We found out that she had many issues going on at home and the family were struggling to cope. Her mother had lost her job, and they had had a family bereavement. This resulted in the mother suffering from depression. We offered her a free place in breakfast club so she could have a good breakfast and play with other children. The staff reported that the girl was very hungry. A week later the teacher said ‘it is like the lights have been turned on… a totally different girl, alert and engaged’.”
This school year we will be providing over 6 million breakfasts to more than 31,000 children.
4. What’s the saddest incident you’ve encountered in this regard?
It is sad to hear that some children just don’t get access to the nutritious food we believe every child should have. This is another quote from one of our partner schools:
“Some of our children come to school with the remains of yesterday’s take-away in their lunch box – some cold fried chicken (mostly bones) and a few cold chips.”
5. What more do you believe the Government can do to help solve this widespread problem?
Magic Breakfast can provide a healthy breakfast to a schoolchild for 22p. The Government has recognised the positive impact that school breakfast clubs have, especially on children living in disadvantaged areas, and has helped in the past to fund an increase in school breakfast provision. However, we would like to see an on-going commitment to fund breakfast provision for all children from poorer backgrounds at risk of hunger at the start of the school day.
6. And what more do you think schools could do to help?
Schools are doing an amazing job already! We would perhaps suggest though that, if they have pupils who are disruptive or lacking in energy in their morning lessons, they explore the possibility that it might be because those children have not had breakfast, then ensure in future that they do.
7. If you had a single message to offer parents on the importance of not sending their children to school hungry, what would it be?
The most important lessons are taught in the morning so a hungry child, finding it difficult to concentrate, will be at a disadvantage from the get-go.
8. What are your short-term objectives?
To be able to reach all the 300+ schools on our waiting list with healthy breakfast provision.
9. Where do you hope Magic Breakfast will be in five years’ time?
In five years’ time, we hope that there will be no child in the UK too hungry to learn at the start of the school day.
10. With most FtL readers observing the holy month of Ramadan, do you have any message for them in particular?
Magic Breakfast sends your readers our good wishes and thanks them for their support.
To find out all the latest, visit Magic Breakfast’s website at: www.magicbreakfast.com