The family way

A Generic Photo of a Mother and children having breakfast. See PA Feature FAMILY Family Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FAMILY Family Column.
A Generic Photo of a Mother and children having breakfast. See PA Feature FAMILY Family Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FAMILY Family Column.

Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day - yet more than half a million young children are missing it regularly.

Sending children to school without having eaten doesn’t just leave them hungry - it also affects their ability to concentrate, and leaves them distracted, tired and needing attention, say teachers.

In fact, four out of five teachers say mornings are more stressful because their pupils haven’t eaten breakfast, and an average of 66 million minutes of teaching time are lost every morning during the ‘Rumbling Hour’ at around 10.30am, which teachers say is the most stressful point of their day because of the hungry and distracted pupils in their classes.

In a bid to encourage more parents and children to appreciate the importance of breakfast and make eating it a priority, the charity Magic Breakfast, which provides free breakfasts to primary school children, has teamed up with the cereal company Quaker to run the Feed Their Future campaign.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of breakfast as the first meal of the day, and raise funds for Magic Breakfast which, with the help of Quaker, currently provides 16,000 children with breakfast every morning.

Carmel McConnell, founder of Magic Breakfast, says: “Hunger is a very real problem in this country - we constantly hear from our partner schools the devastating impact this can have on a child’s ability to learn, and without an education, their future life success is at severe risk.

“We can’t ignore this problem any more - it’s time to put an end to it and work to ensure every child has the right nourishment and fuel for learning.”

Research for Quaker’s Feed Their Future report found that during the Rumbling Hour, teachers say 76% of hungry children struggle to concentrate, and more than half of them (54%) are sleepy and lethargic.

In addition, 44% disrupt other children in the classroom, and the same proportion demonstrate lower levels of creativity and focus throughout the day.

In addition, a ravenous 10% of children even try to find something to eat in class.

Alison Lennox, professor of public health nutrition from the University of Surrey, says that since the 1930s, numerous studies have explored the impact breakfast has on the ability to focus, concentrate and learn.

“It’s only now that we’re really beginning to understand the affect that breakfast has on a child’s attention at school, their grades and their behaviour in the classroom,” she says.

“The trend of children missing breakfast is increasing, which is directly impacting children in schools to perform at their best - academically, socially or creatively.”

The Feed Their Futures campaign was launched by the TV presenter and maths whizz Carol Vorderman, who says she’s always given her two children, now aged 22 and 17, breakfast - either eggs and a hot breakfast, cereal or porridge.

And she insists that no matter how chaotic a household is in the morning as parents and children rush to get ready for school and work, breakfast should never be forgotten.

“Some things are too important,” she stresses.

“I would always put breakfast out the night before with crockery and cutlery and so, even if I was having a nightmare morning, the kids could help themselves.”

Vorderman says she’s passionate about education, as it’s “the greatest gift we can give our children”, and she points out that primary school children are like sponges, absorbing every nugget of information.

But she warns: “Research showing that education can be adversely affected by not having breakfast is extremely concerning.

“If a child doesn’t eat breakfast, their concentration will suffer dramatically during the day.”

The Feed Their Future report found that 68% of teachers can identify if a child has eaten or not just by observing their behaviour, and almost half of those children will look and act drowsy.

“A hungry child’s education will suffer and that’s simply not fair to the child,” stresses Vorderman.

“Whatever the reason for them arriving at school without having eaten, it isn’t the child’s fault and that’s why I’m supporting Magic Breakfast, a simple and cheap way to guarantee an improvement in many thousands of children’s lives.

“Every morning should start with a full tummy to help them thrive, concentrate, grow and be inspired.”

:: To support Magic Breakfast in providing healthy breakfasts to more school children, text ‘OATS14 £3’ to 70070 or visit www.magicbreakfast.com