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 –
Do your children eat a good breakfast?