Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about child hunger and funding for free school breakfasts.
Hungry children struggle to learn. Before COVID-19, there were over four million children growing up in poverty, and I have long been concerned that children are going hungry during the pandemic. Child poverty is a pandemic of its own.
As you know, the Government currently funds school breakfasts in disadvantaged areas, which Magic Breakfast and Family Action implement. I know that Magic Breakfast had called for the Government to announce new funding for school breakfasts at the March Budget. I was disappointed that there was no additional funding for schools in the Budget.
The Government has confirmed it is investing up to £38 million in the National School Breakfast Programme in around 2,450 schools in disadvantaged areas. It has also announced £24 million to continue support for breakfast clubs for a further two years. However, Magic Breakfast has expressed concern that the new contract the Government is putting out to tender has significantly different terms to the existing programme.
I am concerned that the current funding is likely to provide breakfast club support to just 4% of children, which in my opinion, is not good enough. I believe breakfast clubs should be available to support every child to recover the learning and social development they have lost during the pandemic. Evidence shows breakfast clubs can boost children’s educational attainment with positive impacts on reading and writing. I am pleased Magic Breakfast is also supporting these calls, and says it believes a universal approach would help break down the stigma that can be associated with a child accepting free school food.
I also support establishing a new taskforce to ensure every child can recover from the impacts of the pandemic, and every child is able to reach their potential.
The next stage of debate for the School Breakfast Bill, which aims to ensure that a free and healthy breakfast is given to pupils of schools serving areas with high levels of deprivation, has not been announced. In addition, as a Private Members’ Bill, it is unlikely to make further progress without the support of the Government.