Breakfast clubs a 'lifeline' for poor families

A staggering 24 per cent of working families in the UK send their children to school early for a free breakfast

(Photo: Jan Willem Geertsma)

At a time when food poverty is hitting the headlines almost every day and faith leaders, politicians and charities alike are joining the debate, yet another statistic has emerged that suggests more Brits than ever are suffering, and this time it is children that are being hit the hardest.

Kellogg's, which gives grants to schools in some of the most deprived areas of the UK to run free breakfast clubs for vulnerable children, has undertaken research into the families who use the service, which make up almost a quarter (24 per cent) of all working households across Britain.

The findings indicate that one in four working parents would have to quit their job if they were not able to send their children to school early due to factors such as astronomical childcare costs, which have increased by almost 80 per cent over the past decade.

Ten per cent of parents whose local schools do not offer breakfast clubs report having to negotiate flexible working hours, take a pay-cut, or put their career on hold.

Magic Breakfast, which partners with food companies to offer schools free produce for breakfasts, reports that almost 4 million children in the UK are living in poverty, and an estimated 700,000 arrive at school hungry every day.

Child Poverty Action Group undertook research which found that a quarter of all children in the UK have only one hot meal a day - their school lunch, making the free breakfast in many cases all the more crucial.

"Breakfast clubs are a lifeline, particularly for those parents on lower incomes," said Jill Rutter, Head of Policy and Research at Family and Childcare Trust.

"For some, these clubs are literally the difference between working or not."

The Government is currently under fire for its welfare reforms, which have resulted in benefit cutbacks for many of the UK's poorest families. Trussell Trust foodbanks are experiencing unprecedented demand for emergency food packages, and hospitals are reporting a doubling in cases of malnutrition.

Director of Kellogg's Paul Wheeler believes that in the face of these statistics, it is imperative that funds are kept available for schools to continue feeding needy children.

"For millions of parents in Britain, having access to a breakfast club helps them do the basics - keep down a job," he said.

"But, with school budgets squeezed, it's more important than ever that breakfast clubs stay open."

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