Calls for expansion of scheme providing free breakfasts to hungry children

Boris Johnson has launched £650,000 programme to provide healthy food to children in capital’s most deprived boroughs. This is from the Guardian…

A national programme of emergency food aid should be set up to cope with rapidly increasing numbers of children arriving at school hungry, according to the charity overseeing the breakfast initiative launched on Tuesday morning by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Carmel McConnell, the founder of Magic Breakfast, said increasingpoverty had brought the problem of hungry school children to critical levels, with teachers reporting rising numbers of children unable to concentrate or misbehaving in class as a result of not having been fed properly.

McConnell praised the mayor’s scheme but said it was initially addressing only a fraction of the likely need. The mayor’s scheme will open in 50 London schools, but the charity estimates that at least 400 schools in the capital would qualify for free breakfasts.

She said there were now 140 schools on Magic Breakfast’s waiting lists, 70 of them in London. Successive surveys showed that over half of teachers had reported bringing in food to give to children who had not eaten since the previous evening, and more need to be done to address the problem: “We are going to have to look at emergency food distribution to schools.”

The mayor’s £650,000 scheme will provide free healthy pre-school meal consisting of bagels, cereals and juice to 5,000 children in some of London’s most deprived boroughs. The three year scheme aims over time to roll out the scheme to all schools in the capital where at least half of pupils qualify for free school meals.

Proponents of free school breakfasts say they improve pupils’ academic concentration, attendance, behaviour, encourage healthier eating habits and help improve relationships between parents and the school.

Johnson, who is patron of the Mayor’s Fund for London said: “A nutritious breakfast is the best way to prepare our kids for a day of school. Eating the right type of foods boosts learning, but unfortunately some children are missing out on this vital first meal of the day. This brilliant scheme will be a catalyst for helping fuel the energy

of thousands of pupils and enable them to reach their full potential.”

A separate scheme to provide universal free school breakfasts for 12,000 local primary schoolchildren was launched today by Blackpool council in Lancashire. The council funded scheme hopes eventually to extend the scheme to secondary schools, and to include free lunches.

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