The charity School Food Matters will restart its Breakfast Box programme in Newham, London to help families impacted by the pandemic over half-term.
On Thursday 21 October, the charity School Food Matters will deliver more than 500Breakfast Boxes to schools in an east London borough that has been impacted more than most by the Covid pandemic.
Five schools in Newham, which have among the highest rates of free school meals entitlement in the country, have been selected to receive the boxes ahead of the October half-term break.
Newham saw the number of children eligible for free school meals increase by 37% in the last year - more than anywhere else, according toGovernment figures.
The schools receiving the Breakfast Boxes later this week include Brampton Manor, which made national headlines earlier this year for securing more offers from Oxbridge than Eton College. It also includes Cumberland Community School, where 61% of students wererecorded as eligible for free school meals, compared to a national secondary school average of 28%.
The Breakfast Box programme, funded by the Betty Messenger Charitable Foundation, will provide 561 Breakfast Boxes to vulnerable families in the borough, including those with children receiving free school meals or identified as having no recourse to public funds. Each box will contain enough food to create five healthy breakfasts to cover the half-term break.
Many of those children have been pushed further into food poverty by Covid. Even prior to the pandemic in 2020, half (50%) of children in Newham were living in poverty - the second highest rate for any local authority in the country, according toEnd Child Poverty data. Meanwhile, a third (32%) are currentlyliving in low food security.
The borough hadrecord high numbers of people on furlough from work, with the system having recently come to an end. This also coincides with the removal of the £20-a-week universal credit uplift earlier this month, which removed the lifeline put in place to support vulnerable families during Covid.
School Food Matters founder and Chief Executive Stephanie Slater said: “School Food Matters is not a food aid charity and we had hoped to move away from emergency response to focus on policy to find a long-term solution to food insecurity. But we cannot ignore the level of need in Newham and, thanks to Betty Messenger Charitable Foundation, we are able to contribute to the effort to make half-term a little easier for Newham’s most vulnerable families.”
Cumberland Community School headteacher Omar Deria said: “Children not eating or not having enough to eat has a serious impact on their learning and I have seen this first-hand, especially as a result of Covid-19. We must not allow any child to go hungry and we need to do everything in our power to fight hunger!”
Newham borough is one of only four local authorities in England which funds free school meals for all primary school students. However, the Breakfast Boxes programme demonstrated that food insecurity goes far beyond those entitled to free school meals. Research by School Food Matters revealed one in four of the families identified by their schools as needing support could not access free school meals.
Newham Council lead for children’s services Cllr Sarah Ruiz said: “This is a great initiative and contributes to our work to keep all children in the borough food secure during the half-term break, as families continue to face significant financial issues due to Covid-19.
“We have a dedicated Young People and Food Security Strategy Taskforce which is committed to addressing structural inequalities and ensuring children have access to nutritious food, essential for good health and wellbeing. Breakfast Boxes will play a role in this work and help ensure children get back to school well and ready to learn.”
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.