New research highlights impact of child hunger on learning during COVID-19
National child nutrition charity Magic Breakfast has published new YouGov teacher research in which more than half of all respondents reported concerns about an anticipated rise in hunger among children returning to school in September.
In a letter to the Department for Education, Alex Cunningham, Magic Breakfast CEO, wrote: “Income and job losses incurred as a result of COVID-19 have led to rising levels of food insecurity, including amongst children.”
Alex Cunningham continues: “The evidence is also clear that children from disadvantaged backgrounds have been worst affected by school closures, spending less time per day learning and struggling to access adequate internet and appropriate devices.”
Since 2018, Amazon has enabled Magic Breakfast to provide around 7,700 meals per day. The company has also set up STEM learning events with Magic Breakfast partner schools, including coding and robotics workshops, to help connect children to careers in the tech sector.
Majority of teachers report concerns about child hunger
The new research from YouGov found that in schools with above-average levels of disadvantage:
- 64% of teachers surveyed anticipate there will be an increase in the number of children arriving at school hungry in September 2020, compared to September 2019
- 79% of teachers surveyed think that hunger will harm efforts to catch children up on the learning they missed out on during school closures
When asked what policies they support to tackle child hunger, teachers backed firm action to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free school breakfast:
- 86% of teachers surveyed support a nationwide programme to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free breakfast during the school term
- 74% of teachers surveyed believe that school breakfasts will help children catch up on learning. This rises to 83% of teachers in schools with above average levels of disadvantage.
This reinforces previous research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Education Endowment Foundation, which found that Year 2 pupils in schools with a universal, free school breakfast provision made two months’ additional academic progress in one year, compared to children in schools with no such breakfast provision.
Free breakfasts for thousands of families
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown and school restrictions, Amazon expanded its long-standing support for Magic Breakfast by providing its warehousing and logistics expertise.
Guided by partner schools, and with generous support from food suppliers, Magic Breakfast has been able to deliver food for take-home breakfast packs to schools or alternative delivery sites during lockdown. In addition, Amazon has delivered parcels of breakfast food to the doorsteps of families who would be difficult to reach otherwise.
Around 35,000 children have been receiving packs containing two weeks’ worth of Magic Breakfast food, either via their schools, or via an Amazon delivery. Breakfast deliveries will continue throughout the school summer holidays.
Shafiya Shah, Corporate Partnerships Manager for Magic Breakfast, explained how Amazon’s support has made this possible.
“With schools closed, we had to re-establish the way in which we reach children at risk of hunger. This involved a huge mapping exercise to establish areas of need and to set up delivery methods that would allow us to reach these children.”
“Amazon’s logistical support was the missing piece of the puzzle. Their contribution has made it possible to reach as many children as possible with home deliveries.”
Magic Breakfast is working closely with its partner schools to offer a flexible ‘hybrid model’, enabling schools to package and deliver food parcels based on local needs and infrastructure.
“We trust our partner schools to guide us on where the most vulnerable families might be”, Shafiya explains. “It’s important to understand that a child who was not at risk of hunger three months ago may now be at risk of food insecurity. Schools are the best option to guide us on which families may have fallen into financial difficulties.”
What are teachers saying?
Nicola Noble, co-Head Teacher of Surrey Square Primary School in London, added her voice to the campaign: “The results of this survey reflect the challenges I have experienced at my school. Many of our families are struggling to put food on the table as a result of COVID-19 related income and job losses and are looking to the school for help.”
“With support from Magic Breakfast, we have been able to provide free school breakfasts to children at risk of hunger since 2011 and I’ve seen first-hand the difference this makes. Pupils start the day with full stomachs, feeling settled and calm, and are better behaved and more able to concentrate on lessons.”
“This will make a massive difference as we begin the task of supporting wellbeing and catching up on missed learning, come September,” Nicola adds.
In response to the support from Magic Breakfast and Amazon, an Executive Headteacher of a Magic Breakfast partner school also said: “Thank you so much for this valuable support you are offering to our families. It is much needed and much appreciated.”
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