Study highlights need for Government to support children at breakfast time
New research is a stark reminder that food poverty doesn’t start at lunchtime
Nearly nine in 10 (86 per cent) teachers are aware of children attending their school without having eaten breakfast and they estimate more than a quarter of their students have turned up to class hungry in the past.
A survey of 510 primary or mixed-age teachers in the UK, commissioned by Arla Cravendale, found a huge 93 per cent report that children struggle more to concentrate on schoolwork if they have arrived with an empty stomach. This has seen nine in 10 teachers speak to a child if they had concerns about how little they were eating, and eight in 10 reported their wards volunteered this information without being asked.
The insights follow Arla Cravendale’s real world experiment with two teachers to see how their day in the classroom would be impacted while teaching without having eaten for a day.
Everyone knows that hunger is a barrier to learning. Since the pandemic it is estimated that 2.5 million children in the UK are at risk of food insecurity and going hungry. But there is an answer: a healthy school breakfast which can help ensure that children are not too hungry to learn. If a child was in need of something to eat, 81 per cent of teachers have even offered them some food, such as a slice of toast or some cereal. Furthermore, 58 per cent have felt the need to approach a pupil’s parent regarding their children arriving at school hungry, to try to find out why.
It also emerged that eight in 10 said their schools run breakfast clubs for children who are unable to eat at home – although 58 per cent of these have to charge for the service, to cover costs. Faced with these stark figures, Arla Cravendale is calling on the Government to address early-morning hunger as they consider the National Food Strategy.
Danny Micklethwaite, spokesperson for Arla Cravendale said: “No child should have to sit in lessons hungry, and it’s staggering to see how many teachers have reported instances of this happening. Every adult knows how difficult it is to concentrate on an empty stomach, and it’s exactly the same for children.
“We salute the teachers who have gone above and beyond to make sure the students at their school have enough to eat, to help them learn but we can do more and are putting out a plea to the Government to remember these children and their classmates when it comes to developing policy to fight food poverty. After all, children’s hunger doesn’t just start at lunchtime – breakfast is a gaping hole in the current National Food Strategy conversation.
“In the meantime, we’re working with charity Magic Breakfast to help make sure hundreds of thousands of children at over 1,000 schools have access to a balanced breakfast before their lessons start.”
The study also found that after conversing with parents, teachers have been told a wealth of different reasons why their students might have missed breakfast. Top of the list was that they woke up late, cited by six in 10, while 42 per cent admitted they simply can’t afford to provide breakfast every day. A fifth of teachers said parents would find it preferable if the school provided breakfast as a matter of course.
But as a result of not eating breakfast, 70 per cent of teachers have children who struggle to concentrate while 53 per cent said they become tired and irritable. Other side effects include getting upset more easily, struggling in PE and becoming disruptive in class, according to the OnePoll.com data.
Arla Cravendale is working with Magic Breakfast to ensure that no child is too hungry to learn and has so far donated enough milk to fill 9.5 million bowls of cereal. To support Arla’s call for breakfast to be considered a key part of the fight against food insecurity, we’re asking people to post a selfie on social media of them at breakfast time, with the hashtag #backingbreakfast. Find out more at https://www.arlafoods.co.uk/brands/arla-cravendale/magic-breakfast/.