School Food Matters delivers one millionth breakfasts to children impacted by Covid

29 March 2021
On Tuesday 30 March the charity School Food Matters will have delivered one million breakfasts to children severely impacted by the pandemic, exposing the scale of food insecurity and the knock-on impact on children’s health.

The Breakfast Boxes programme launched during the first lockdown in May 2020 and has continued throughout school closures and school holidays, providing nutritious food to children and young people in need, many of whom have been pushed by the pandemic into food poverty.                                                         

The Coronavirus pandemic has upended children’s lives around the world and in the UK. A new report by the charity Food Foundation released on 1 March found that:

  • Food insecurity remains higher than pre-Covid levels affecting an estimated 4.7 million adults (9% of households) over the last six months. This compares to pre-Covid levels of 7.6%.
  • An estimated 2.3 million children live in households that have experienced food insecurity in the past 6 months.

To respond to the crisis, School Food Matters shifted its focus from educating children and schools about healthy food, to working with schools to distribute nutritious breakfasts.

The Breakfast Boxes programme operates in the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark where, according to Trust for London, 44% of children live in poverty. The project is funded by Impact on Urban Health - a part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, the Food Power for Generation Covid initiative and generous donations from the public.

The Breakfast Boxes programme has demonstrated that food insecurity goes far beyond those entitled to free school meals. Research by School Food Matters revealed that one in four of the families identified by their schools as needing support cannot access free school meals.

Nicola Harris, Assistant Headteacher of Allen Edwards Primary School, said: “These boxes have been such a lifeline for parents, during a period of severe economic stress. They have absolutely loved the healthy food, commenting on how tasty the kids have found the fruit. And it became an important way for us to keep connected with our vulnerable families, beyond their food needs. It has brought us together as a community.”

A parent at Archbishop Tenison’s School in Lambeth who received the boxes said: “The breakfast boxes have been extremely helpful to my family. The impact of the Lockdown has been devastating, as we were unable to work. I have two teenage children in the house, and we were unsure where the next meal was coming from. The thought of them going to bed hungry or their food not being nutritious enough was very scary. However, once we started receiving the boxes, it was a blessing and a comfort.”

James Robinson, the headteacher of Camelot school in Southwark, has been delivering the breakfast boxes with his teaching team, climbing so many flights of stairs in large estates that he was clocking up 30,000 steps before his workday even began. Now he is planning to run the 2021 marathon to raise money for the local food bank. “It’s been a privilege for me to get involved and a lifeline for our families. We are one of the most deprived schools in Southwark and our families were stunned by the quality of the ingredients and fresh fruit.”

The Breakfast Boxes programme has demonstrated the income threshold for FSM eligibility is set too low, meaning that children are missing out. That is why School Food Matters supports the recommendations from the National Food Strategy, specifically to expand entitlement to free school meals.

Each box is filled with two weeks’ worth of healthy breakfasts including fresh fruit, oats and rice, in addition to wholemeal bread, baked beans, Weetabix and milk.

CEO and Founder of School Food Matters, Stephanie Slater, said:

“Children in Britain deserve to have enough nutritious food to ensure they are healthy and able to thrive. The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to review school food policy and funding. We must use this moment as an opportunity for change.

We support the National Food Strategy’s call on the government to expand entitlement to free school meals, so that every child receives the food they need to thrive.”

Rebecca Sunter, Portfolio Manager - Childhood Obesity Programme, at Impact on Urban Health said:

By reaching the milestone of one million breakfasts, this project has highlighted the need for better access to nutritious breakfasts for primary and secondary school pupils. To improve children’s health, support learning and tackle food insecurity, the Government must commit to a review of the school food system and consider funding universal nutritious breakfasts as part of this.”

For more information visit our Breakfast Boxes info page.


Notes to editors

About School Food Matters  

School Food Matters exists to teach children about food and to improve children’s access to healthy, sustainable food during their time at school.

We provide fully-funded food education programmes to schools.  Our experience in delivering these programmes informs and strengthens our campaigns, bringing the voices of children, parents and teachers to government policy.

Follow School Food Matters on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

About Impact on Urban Health 

The places that we grow up, live and work impact how healthy we are. Urban areas, like inner-city London, have some of the most extreme health outcomes. Alongside their vibrancy and diversity sit stark health inequalities.

At Impact on Urban Health, we want to change this. We believe that we can remove obstacles to good health, by making urban areas healthier places for everyone to live.

From our home in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, we’re focused on a few complex health issues that disproportionately impact people living in cities, and we work with local, national and international organisations, groups and individuals to tackle these.

Find out about more what we are doing to improve children’s health in urban areas by tackling childhood obesity.

Follow Impact on Urban Health on Twitter