The Archbishop joined pupils, parents and staff from St Mary’s and St Michael’s in Tower Hamlets in the parish hall next door to the school, which is one of five schools in Westminster Diocese starting the scheme. The initiative between Caritas Diocese of Westminster, the Diocese’s social action agency, and Magic Breakfast aims to provide free, healthy breakfasts for every child at primary level in those schools. Magic Breakfast currently feeds 8,000 children every morning in over 240 primary schools across seven cities with a further 160 schools on its waiting list.
The benefits to pupils is clear with over 90% of schools working with Magic Breakfast reporting increased concentration during lessons, improved attendance and attainment. The collaboration between Caritas Diocese of Westminster and Magic Breakfast comes at a time of increased awareness about the need for good nutrition among school pupils and political parties pushing for an increase in free school meals.
Carmel McConnell, founder of the charity Magic Breakfast said well over 500,000 school pupils across the country were arriving at school hungry or malnourished.
“These figures are truly alarming. Children only have one chance at education. We want to make a practical difference and this certainly does that from all of the reports coming back from school. The government proposals for free lunches shows they understand how important this issue is and teachers point to the fact that the most important lessons of the day are in the morning so breakfast is the most important meal of the day for these pupils. Our aim is that every child in the country should be fed so they can learn at school.”
Archbishop Nichols said he fully supported the aims of the charity and welcomed the collaboration.
“In addition to the important aims of this initiative in enabling children to make the most of their education, this is a joyful environment. You just have to look at everyone involved. The volunteering is done in a spirit of service and is done through love. It links family to school to parish and so has additional benefits in building community. I am hopeful this is something that can expand, enabling pupils to flourish and for the learning to be taken on both in the home and more widely.”
Ian Jones, the acting head of St Mary and St Michael, said he was delighted with the scheme.
“It has made a real difference to attendance, concentration and achievement. And it is growing all of the time, so we also have parents and toddlers coming in after the pupils go off to school and hopefully this increases parents’ skills when it comes to nutrition. All of this can only benefit the pupils.”
John Coleby, Director of Caritas Diocese of Westminster spoke about the value of the project:
“Our work with schools such as St Mary’s and Michael’s and Magic Breakfast is essential to ensure that children can make the most of their educational opportunities and life chances. Our aim is to respond with love to need whenever we see it. This project responds to the need for a healthy breakfast as well as providing an environment for families, teachers and friends to share aspirations and reach out to each other, strengthening and empowering the whole community.”
Caritas Diocese of Westminster (CDOW) was established in May 2012 and is the social action agency of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Westminster which facilitates outreach work to tackle poverty and exclusion. Caritas Diocese of Westminster brings together established charitable organisations, enabling them to share resources and expertise in helping the poor and marginalised. CDOW connects diocesan agencies, charities and statutory agencies with local initiatives such as parish projects. Work is based on sharing good practice and collaborative working.
Since Caritas Diocese of Westminster took over the funding of the Magic Breakfast programme a year ago, the school has managed to expand its delivery of food aid quite significantly. It now runs from 7.45 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. and, with the support of Father Tom Quinn, they have moved the breakfast club into the parish hall. It is run by teaching assistants and parent/parish volunteers. From 8.30 a.m. all children and their parents, irrespective of income, are welcome to a free breakfast. Parents of younger children are encouraged to stay and eat with them. The school children then return to school at 8.55 a.m. and then other parents with non-school-age children come and stay till 9.30 a.m. The staff runs activities during the breakfast club and an exercise class at 8.30 a.m. Currently, they feed around 75 children, 20 parents and 10 babies/toddlers. St. Mary and St. Michael school is part of a pilot of five diocesan schools being supported by the Diocese over the next three years.
Some more recent information on the drive to tackle food poverty in schools;
To solve the problem of UK child hunger and malnutrition in the mornings as a barrier to education through:
1. Food Aid
Providing a practical and immediate solution to child hunger by delivering free healthy breakfasts to primary school breakfast clubs in the most deprived communities. Delivering to 242 primary schools, feeding 8,000 children every day. The charity receives no public funds and urgently needs support to carry on this work.
2. Self-Sustaining Breakfast Clubs- 3 year programme
Working with over 70 of our 240 partner schools programme to help every school financially safeguard their morning breakfast provision for the future. The charity has developed a model to help each Headteacher lead the breakfast club to become financially self sustaining. Caritas has become an important partner for Magic Breakfast, supporting 5 schools in the Diocese of Westminster through the three year programme.
3. Making the Case for Change
Creating wider public awareness around the issue of child hunger as a barrier to education and influencing policy makers to create lasting societal change.
Magic Breakfast- Fuel for Learning
With over 10 years’ experience, Magic Breakfast is the largest national provider of healthy breakfasts to schools, leading the agenda to end child hunger as a barrier to education for good.
The charity currently supports 242 primary schools in over than 7 cities, including Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol and London and provides a healthy breakfast for over 8,000 children each school day.
The work of the charity work is high impact for a low cost as each breakfast costs 22p and 93% of Magic Breakfast partner schools see increased concentration and energy in class. It works.
The charity was established by Carmel McConnell in 2001 as a response to the sheer number of children arriving at school hungry and whose education was suffering as a result. Talking to primary school Head teachers as research for her first book, Change Activist, Carmel recognised the unseen issue of child hunger in the mornings as a reason for a widening child educational attainment gap. Magic Breakfast was set up as a catalytic organisation, providing food as fuel for learning, to ensure that children from the poorest homes would not miss out on their future success through hunger at the start of the school day.
Magic Breakfast is a direct response to the problems these children face; fainting in class through hunger; fighting to get to the front of lunch queues; being disruptive and incapable of concentration for want of a meal in the morning. Many years of experience has proven that breakfast is a vital intervention; it makes a real and lasting difference to a child’s ability to make the most of learning and development opportunities.
In addition to this vital ‘fuel for learning’, Magic Breakfast clubs provide a warm and welcoming early morning place for children from chaotic families or those with lone parent workers. They teach them the importance of a healthy diet (and their parents, too, leading to improved nutrition at home), they provide an environment for booster classes in numeracy and literacy, and create a space in which children can take part in structured play with children from other years.
Magic Breakfast logistics and costs – how does it work?
All partner schools have applied directly to Magic Breakfast for support. Once a school applies to the charity, the charity works hard to secure the funds and confirm the support provided will go directly to reaching children arriving at school too hungry or malnourished to learn. Once partnered with a school, the charity delivers free healthy breakfasts, through delivery partner Igloo Thermo-Logistics, on a weekly/fortnightly basis.
Breakfast clubs are staffed by the school. The success of a breakfast club in supporting families relies on the school’s strong knowledge of their community, and the sensitive approach they can take to guide the families who are struggling most. We provide as much food as is required to reach every vulnerable child within a school. The condition of our support to a school is that breakfast club is offered without stigma or exclusion, either financial or social. It costs the charity
22p to buy a healthy breakfast for a primary school pupil
£3.50 to give a child healthy breakfast for a month
£42 to feed a child for a year
This low cost is only possible through generous support from Quaker Oats and Tropicana.