One third of children go to school hungry amid cost of living crisis and high food prices

As many as a third of primary school children regularly go to school without eating breakfast.

By Gemma Jimmison
Tuesday, 5th July 2022, 2:46 pm

According to a new study of primary school teachers, around a third (33 percent) of their current class come to school hungry because they have not yet eaten.

Overall, 78 percent said they had brought food and snacks for hungry students with their own money.

Meanwhile, 60 percent strongly suspect that some pupils are only eating junk food like crisps or sweets before school, which doesn’t keep them sustained during morning lessons.

One third of children go to school hungry amid cost of living crisis and high food prices

The study by dairy cooperative Arla found that 81 percent of teachers said that being hungry affects kids’ ability to concentrate and learn.

As a result of not eating, 75 percent insist hungry kids tend to become moody, 67 percent claim they start to flag by mid-morning, 60 percent said they get upset more easily, and 37 percent believe they find it harder to work with other pupils.

81 percent put the increase in hungry pupils down to the cost-of-living crisis, and 77 percent said the price of food is so high now that families are struggling to put food on the table.

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While 53 percent believe the pandemic decreased many families’ income, and 42 percent believe that kids are being fed a diet of junk food that doesn’t fill them up properly.

These figures have inspired Arla and Magic Breakfast, a charity aiming to end hunger as a barrier to education in UK schools, to help teach children about how food is produced as well as helping to provide children with nutrition at breakfast.

Andrea Doughty, Magic Breakfast School Liaison Manager said: “It’s truly devastating that the number of children requiring support at breakfast time is only growing. Whether that be because of financial pressures or lack of government guidance, we need to join forces and come together to provide these children with the support for their growth and fuel for their learning.

Danny Micklethwaite, Vice President of the Milk Category at Arla, said: “Our research shows that plenty of children are going to school hungry and it's devastating that these cases are only growing. Here at Arla, we believe that every child should have a good breakfast which provides them with the essential nutrients they need to grow and fuel their learning, which is why our partnership with Magic Breakfast is so important, providing over 200 school breakfast clubs across the UK every single day.”

Overall, the study found that an overwhelming 93 percent of the 500 primary school teachers polled believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for children.

No surprise then, perhaps, that 59 percent regularly talk to their pupils about the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast.

The study also found that three quarters of those surveyed said that free breakfast clubs for kids who need them would help with the problem of children not eating before school.

While more than half (55 percent) said they thought the Government should provide financial help to families to ensure they can afford to buy healthy and nutritious food.

“With the help of organisations like Arla, we can support hundreds of children through the provision of over 200 school breakfast clubs across the country.”

The study found that more than six in ten (61 percent) of the primary school teachers polled were clear on one thing: being hungry doesn’t help you learn.