Social Justice

Put free school breakfasts in the Budget, urges charity

Magic Breakfast, which helps more than 170,000 children across the country with free school breakfasts, is calling on the Government to keep funding the programme

Children’s food charity Magic Breakfast, which feeds 170,000 pupils who would otherwise turn up to school hungry, has seen a 35 per cent increase in demand for their services in the past year.

With plans for schools to reopen on March 8, it is urging the Chancellor to include free morning meals in the Spring Budget.

The Government-funded National School Breakfast Programme, which has provided free school breakfasts to hundreds of thousands of children since 2018, is due to end in July, meaning providers Magic Breakfast and Family Action will no longer be able to help children with the food they need.

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With the deadline looming it has sent a letter to ministers highlighting how “Covid-19 has led to rising levels of food insecurity amongst children” and that “disadvantaged children have been worst affected by school closures, with research indicating a widening educational attainment gap.”

The letter has been co-signed by more than 30 charities and organisations including FareShare, School Food Matters, Children’s Right2Food Campaign and Chefs in Schools.

It has gained cross-party support from MPs including Robert Halfon MP, Ed Davey MP, Emma Lewell-Buck MP and Christian Wakeford MP, as well as the backing of celebrities including singer-songwriter Yusuf Cat Stevens, comedians Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont and actor Larry Lamb.

A survey done at Magic Breakfast sites in the autumn, found that 35 per cent more children were getting breakfasts at the beginning of the autumn term compared to July 2019.

Almost half (48 per cent) of staff surveyed in Magic Breakfast partner schools thought child hunger had increased in their school community as a result of Covid-19 and over two-thirds thought that poverty had increased.

Jo Matthews, press and celebrity manager at Magic Breakfast, said the increase in demand was a result of the pandemic’s impact on family finances. She said: “As a result of these economic impacts, the loss of easily accessible FSM [free school meals] and increased demand for support, many children and families are experiencing increased food poverty.”

Unlike the high-profile free schools meals initiative championed by footballer Marcus Rashford, the Magic Breakfast doesn’t just reach children of families on benefits.

In its letter, the charity says: “We believe that the 3 March Budget is the right opportunity for the Government to make this commitment and we urge the Government to act decisively to ensure that children at risk of food insecurity have the chance to benefit fully from the education system and reach their full potential.”

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