Research released today shows teachers have seen a huge increase in the number of pupils coming to school hungry.
According to a survey of UK teachers, cash-strapped schools are increasingly having to rely on food banks to keep their daily breakfast clubs going as budget cuts force hundreds to close. The survey also reveals just over half of schools still operate a breakfast club, and one in ten schools now rely on food recycling charities to feed pupils – with a third of teachers saying they take food into schools to give to the hungriest children.
That figure looks set to grow. Almost four out of five teachers say their pupils are coming to school hungry, with more than half saying it has become an increasing problem over the last year, as the recession, unemployment, and benefit cuts take hold. The study is backed up by evidence from Fareshare, the charity which provides free food to schools. It has seen a 57% increase in the number of breakfast clubs in need of free food.
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The average breakfast club costs only £4,000 annualy, however cuts to school budgets are leaving a financial gap many struggle to fill; 40% of breakfast clubs have closed in schools across England.
The Royal College of GPs, the National Association of Head Teachers, and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recently called on the government to provide free breakfasts to children in receipt of free school meals. Doing so helps reduces health problems linked with poverty, they say, and improves academic achievement.
Bruce Learner, Head of CR at Kellogg’s – which is committing to provide three million breakfasts through food banks like FareShare over the next three years, raising £300,000 which will be donated to schools to help provide breakfast for the children that need it most – told Left Foot Forward:
“As a food company, our primary objective is to convert every grain we buy into food that we can sell. However this is not always possible and despite our best endeavours we do find ourselves with food that has creased or torn packaging that cannot be sold in the usual way.
“This is where a Charity like FareShare comes in: they will take this food which is in perfect condition and they will ensure it goes to people who really need it. If it were not for organisations like FareShare we would have to seek other alternatives.“
Pupils are turning up to school hungry, breakfast clubs slammed shut, food banks… welcome to Austerity Britain 2012.