From encouraging reading to teaching schedules, there are many ways to help children succeed in school.
But the likelihood of a child getting the most out of each school day is heavily influenced by an often overlooked factor: whether they had a good breakfast.
Research shows that children who eat a good meal in the morning are more focused on lessons and, in turn, perform better academically*.
But a new study** reveals that cost of living pressures are making it harder for families to access healthy meals, with 20% of children worried about not having enough food at home.
The survey of parents and students aged 4 to 19 also found that tighter budgets forced 23% of parents to buy less fresh food, including fruits and vegetables.
Meanwhile, 63% of families said they switched to buying cheaper food from the supermarket to save money.
Lindsey MacDonald is CEO of Magic Breakfast, an educational charity that conducted the research with funding from People’s Postcode Lottery players.
“I was shocked and saddened by the results of our research,” she told Metro.co.uk.
“We know that parents and carers do everything to protect children from the pressures they might face, so it was striking to see how affected they are at home.
“And what really struck me is that more families and children are experiencing these issues for the first time.”
Magic Breakfast offers healthy school breakfasts to children in England and Scotland who are at risk of going hungry.
Partner schools usually open their doors a little earlier each morning to offer their students a free meal of nutritious options like cereal, fruit and porridge.
As well as ensuring the kids don’t go hungry, breakfast provides a calm and safe environment at the start of the day and warmth during cold spells when some families struggle to heat their homes.
Currently, the association provides breakfast to more than 200,000 students in 1,000 schools, from primary to secondary.
“We really have the best start to the day”
Catherine Jones is principal of Thorney Close Primary School in Sunderland, who has worked with Magic Breakfast for several years.
Each school day begins with a free in-class breakfast for students, including hot items like bagels and baked beans.
“When we first set up the program, we noticed some kids backing up for seconds or even thirds, which really surprised me,” she says.
“Some kids would make cornflakes and a bagel, so they were clearly coming to school hungry.
“But what surprised me even more was that if there were bagels left over at recess, the kids ate them cold because they were already hungry again.”
Catherine says she has noticed that the children have become “more stable, focused, happy and ready to learn” since the program was introduced.
And these are not the only advantages that the director has observed.
“One of the biggest changes in our school is that the children are now arriving on time and attendance has improved,” she says.
“We really have the best start to the day. The children like it so they now want to come to school earlier.
To understand the importance of a good breakfast, just listen to the students themselves.
One, from Yorkshire and the Humber, described how it ‘helps you start the day right – you have energy in your body and it fuels your mind’.
Another, who attends secondary school in the east of England, said skipping breakfast makes them “sleep to the point of not hearing anything”.
In addition to making every day more productive and enjoyable for students, providing free breakfasts can bring huge economic benefits to the country and ensure taxpayer dollars spent on education are not wasted.
In fact, one study found that providing a year’s worth of breakfasts to a key stage one child could generate over £9,000 in economic benefits by increasing their level of education and future earnings***.
Learn more about Magic Breakfast’s work here.
Magic Breakfast is a registered charity in England and Wales (110251) and Scotland (SC048202). Funding provided by Postcode Children Trust, a registered Scottish charity (SC044773).
How you can help People’s Postcode Lottery continue to support charities like Magic Breakfast
Want to do your part for good causes across the country while having the chance to win up to £1million to share with your neighbours? Thought so!
With People’s Postcode Lottery, you pay a subscription of £12 per month to be automatically entered into each draw.
Winners are announced every day of the month, including a £1million share for a winning postcode every Saturday as part of the all-new Millionaire Street prize.
There is also £1,000 to be won each weekday for every ticket in twenty postcodes, £30,000 for every winning ticket in a postcode every Sunday and a monthly prize of at least £3.2 million for a lucky area.
The prospect of winning big on a regular basis is, naturally, a huge attraction. But signing up won’t just benefit you…
At least 33% of the price of each Postcode People’s Lottery ticket is donated to good causes.
Players have raised over £1 billion for charity so far, including £3.5 million for Magic Breakfast alone.
Its CEO, Lindsey McDonald, said: “The regular support we receive from players of the popular postcode lottery is so important.
“We only need 28 pence to buy breakfast for a child. This doesn’t just include food and delivery, but also the expert help we provide to schools to improve their breakfast clubs.
“While we hope that one day the government will fund universal free breakfasts for pupils, our current approach ensures that the learning potential of every school day is not lost.”