Breakfast Clubs play a vital role in the school system. They provide access to nutritious food during the most important meal of the day and support for busy parents who do not have time for the school run.
Back in 2011, around half of all schools in the UK offered a Breakfast Club. In England, most of these schools were primary schools (63%).
Since the National School Breakfast programme launched in 2018, the Department of Education claims to have created or improved 1,800 breakfast clubs. In January this year, they promised an additional £11.8million which will fund 650 more clubs by 2021.
However, in March all schools had to close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic - and this included closing their Breakfast Clubs.
Some Breakfast Club charities, such as the Huddersfield Town Foundation, had many fundraising events cancelled, so whilst they could keep their clubs open, it was on a much smaller scale.
Covid-19 has caused school staff, pupils and parents to constantly adapt to the changing environment over the last 7 months.
But throughout it all, child nutrition and food poverty remain an important conversation.
During the pandemic, Marcus Rashford teamed up with FareShare UK, a poverty and food waste charity, to raise approximately £20million to supply over 3 million school meals to vulnerable people. He also wrote a letter to Boris Johnson detailing his experience as a Free School Meals pupil and called for change. This led to the creation of the ‘Covid Summer Fund’ which enabled FSM students to be supported over the summer holiday.
In some schools, hot meal menu cycles were replaced with Lunch Grab Bags which were free for FSM students. Many parents have been encouraged to pay for meals online to reduce the amount of cash handled in school.
As schools’ clubs begin to start up again, we are reminded of the pivotal role they play in improving child nutrition.
Breakfast Clubs impact on nutrition
As we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day - it provides approximately 20% of your daily energy requirements.
Yet 1 in 7 UK schoolchildren have nothing to eat at breakfast (14%) and a third of those who skip breakfast don’t eat or drink anything till lunch time (Hoyland et al).
According to research by YouGov, if a child arrived at school hungry once a week, they would lose 8.4 weeks of learning time (70% of a term) over the whole of their primary school life.
Research shows that trying to catch up with nutrients later in the day just does not work effectively - breakfast skippers will have consistently lower nutrient levels than habitual breakfast eaters.
Of those who do eat breakfast, a UK survey showed 10% of schoolchildren aged 10-11 ate crisps or chocolate for breakfast.
Kelloggs has partnered with Magic Breakfast, a breakfast club charity, to provide free breakfasts to 480 schools across the UK to combat the rising number of children arriving at school hungry.
Alex Cunningham, the chief executive of Magic Breakfast, was interviewed by Schools Week and said “Many schools will have a form of breakfast offering, but what that was would range from being not very nutritious, like a slice of toast, or being fee-paying.”
According to the School Food Standards, foods high in fat, sugar and salt are not permitted at times other than lunch. You can find a checklist of which foods to include at Breakfast Clubs on the government website here.
Much of the data surrounding Breakfast Clubs is now outdated, but Magic Breakfast has been continually monitoring the impact of their work, stating that 1 in 4 schools see a reduction in behaviour incidents and a reduction in late marks (Schools Week).
Eating breakfast every morning is directly linked to a wide variety of health benefits, including lower obesity risk, improved mood, increased concentrationband decreased risk of coronary heart disease.
Other benefits of Breakfast Clubs
A Kelloggs survey showed that 29% of working parents would have to quit their jobs if Breakfast Clubs were not available. As some working parents can now return to the office, they need the support these clubs offer.
Breakfast clubs also offer an opportunity for children to socialise, not only with other children, but the staff as well.
One parent from Hampshire said her children felt more included in the school and more relaxed now that they had other members of staff that recognised them. This could have a great impact on the children who are uncertain about returning to school after such a long break.
Many breakfast clubs also offer their club in two parts - breakfast first and then activities. Some of the activities offered include arts and crafts, reading, homework help, board games or outside games - British weather permitting! The activities offer a wonderful opportunity for children to receive gentle mental stimulation before school. The pupils who attend these clubs start the day without the stress of the morning rush and ready to learn.
How to ensure your Breakfast Club is successful and sustainable
As we hope to move towards a more normal routine at school, it is important to stay up to date with the latest government advice on school clubs and coronavirus.
Updated advice from the Government on how to keep your school clubs safe:
Updated advice from the Government for parents on how to keep safe at school clubs:
Organisation is key
Here at Tucasi, we are so impressed by all the school staff we chat to daily. You are working tirelessly to make school a safe and happy place during this confusing time.
To find out how the Extended Day module can help your school, call us today on 02380 016563 or book your free demo.
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