I watched a short news clip this week, about a new trial taking place in Blackpool, England, offering primary pupils a free school breakfast. Blackpool is not the first place to test such a scheme, in Wales, over 75% of children now enjoy a free breakfast at school after a similar scheme was implemented in 2004 by the Welsh government. This year, the Welsh government is pledging £12.7 million to the Free Breakfast Initiative. These articles really got me thinking about the breakfast we have in our house. Even if we are extremely pushed for time, I always make sure the children sit down to eat some porridge or Weetabix with whole milk and some fruit. At weekends, we’re more likely to have boiled eggs or something a bit more substantial. But that’s certainly not the case across the country.
The Primary School Free Breakfast Initiative in Wales was prompted by the fact that Wales has the highest rate of child poverty than any country in the UK. This surprised me and I was encouraged to read that we are seeing the scheme pilot in other poorer areas, too, such as Blackpool and in some parts of London. As a child of the North, I like to read about good things happening close to home, and it seems to me that Breakfast Clubs are a small, but positive step towards helping to improve children’s health as well as their concentration.
Often, children skip breakfast before school because time is tight in the morning. A study by the Kellog’s charitable trust also revealed that, “parents are leaving children to fend for themselves in the morning. This is because some parents simply don’t have the time or inclination to prepare breakfast, let alone supervise their children or encourage them to eat it.”
The Free Breakfast Initiative in Blackpool revealed that some children arrive at school having eaten no breakfast at all, or having had “last night’s KFC for breakfast or a packet of custard creams.” Of course, there are infinitely higher rates of child poverty and malnutrition around other parts of the world, but it still shocks me to think that many children in the UK have no idea what a good breakfast is. They either arrive at school hungry, with poor concentration or are hyperactive as a result of eating sugary cereals or packets of biscuits.
Schools taking part in the Free Breakfast Initiative Scheme offer fresh fruit, milk, yoghurt and cereal. Some children enjoy bagels or toast and there is evidence to suggest that the scheme promotes better productivity in pupils, which, in some cases meant that there was “an average of two months more progress by pupils at key stages 1 and 2.” Children taking part in free breakfast scheme were also less fussy about what they ate at home.
Sadly, the current financial climate means that we likely won’t see this scheme expanding to any significant degree. However, there are a number of charities and trusts working to ensure that there is a greater understanding of healthy eating, beginning with breakfast, such as Magic Breakfast and Fare Share, which focuses on waste, too. Kellog’s also have a Breakfast Club Funding program called ‘Help Give a Child a Healthy Breakfast,” which is worth investigating if your child’s school has an existing program and would like a grant.
Here are some healthy breakfast ideas to explore –
Honey Nut Toasted Oats with Ribena Berry Sauce
Healthy Hot Chocolate Breakfast Smoothies
Netmums Breakfast Ideas for Kids
Fuss Free Flavour’s Breakfast Club archives
Do your children eat a good breakfast?
When I did the Better Brekkie campaign I was shocked at all the stats about children and breakfast. I’ve been on and on an on at our school to start introducing more healthy breakfast things like wholemeal toast even. Their excuse is not cost but that children won’t eat it. Ridiculous!
Breakfast bars are a great idea, or make-ahead healthy muffins if time is tight in the morning. Oooh drop scones and pancakes, how lovely, too. Hope you try the savoury croissants, they make a nice change. Katie (Feeding Boys and a Frefighter) made them with melty cheese and ham, yummy.
Andrea Mynard says
Totally agree about the importance of good breakfasts. I don’t like all the packaging in the cereal aisle of the supermarkets, let alone all the added sugar and chocolate – all things my daughter would be a big fan of if she realised they existed though! So I’m always trying to think of other ideas, I love porridge and make granola and oaty breakfast bars (that keep for a while in jars) to have during the week and dropscones, pancakes and smoothies at weekends when there’s more time. Must try your gorgeous looking stuffed croissants too. Obviously I’m imperfect and I do resort to bought cereals too but try not to rely on them.
What a great idea these breakfast initiatives are.
As a cancer health educator and weight management adviser a good, wholesome breakfast is top of my list of healthy habits to recommend. And it is SO much easier, and pays dividends later in life, to ‘train’ very young children to eat a good brekkie rather than tackle it later in childhood. I have spoken to countless adults over the 8 years in my job, and the ones with the best eating habits growing up tend to be the ones that are healthier overall, despite a cancer diagnosis. It can be a struggle to do it right every single day, but I see the outfall of poor diets and under-nutrition everyday. I firmly believe that a good breakfast, with the kind of recipes and ideas that you advocate, has to be part of a balanced and energy-giving diet. But even just plain yogurt and some fruit is good too. As for the ridiculously long aisle of sugar-coated cereals, it is shameful, and sad. Most should be re-labelled as desserts and treated as such – occasional use only! I am lucky that my daughter (now almost 17) never had a taste for such things so it has not been an issue, but I can appreciate that pester power – fired up by commercials and commercial tie-ins – must be very difficult to get round. Thanks for bringing this issue up with your readers. So, so important for now and the future.
You are so right, Kellie. Habits form quickly and early so it’s important to start young and start healthy. We almost always had a cooked breakfast at home, scrammbled eggs or boiled eggs growing up, occassionally cornflakes. The Poles usually enjoy a hearty breakfast, or a continental style breakfast of cold meats and cheese. Hope you are keeping well. x
Magnolia Verandah says
The thing is old habits die hard and poor eaters promote this to their children and so on – a certain lack of basic healthy eating education. Fortunately my children always had breakfast even the fussy ones would have homemade muffins and hot /cold milk and I am happy to say all their children are very healthy eaters.
Homemade muffins sound like a lovely brreakfast treat 🙂 You are right, it is all about habits and example setting. Thanks for commenting xx
Breakfast is so important but what annoys me most is shopping in the cereal aisle. All cereals recently have opted for chocolate versions or have added choc chips and other sweet things that just aren’t necessary. I have to really hunt out the simple varieties and they are in the minority.
I am strict about buying the plainer varieties and they are used to them now.
Thanks for highlighting this very important issue x
Yes I know Laura, almost evey single cereal now has a chocolate variety, which of course, the kids would love first. Even plainer cereals are incredibly sugary, like Cherrios and Special K. So much sugar, imagine a bowl of Frosties. I too have become strict at buying plainer versions, but it is a battle. Luckily my kids love eggs, so scrambled eggs or boiled eggs with toast soldiers are always an option. Thanks for stopping by x