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09 Jan, 2015


  • Four in ten teachers say they see children arriving hungry every day
  • Teachers believe economic downturn and benefits cuts have worsened hunger problem
  • Three in ten have brought in food for hungry students

The number of struggling families sending their children to school hungry has increased over the past year, according to a poll of almost 900 primary and secondary school teachers.*

The Kellogg’s survey revealed that students are turning up for school without having had breakfast and struggle to learn as a result. Some 38 per cent of teachers said they saw children arriving at school hungry every day.

One fifth (21 per cent) said the number of children who arrive hungry has increased compared to this time a year ago, while just 2 per cent said the figure had decreased.

Of those 21 per cent, some 69 per cent said one reason for the jump was the economic downturn, while 56 per cent blamed benefits cuts. Almost half (48 per cent) said that in the fight to secure full-time work, parents were not financially able to provide breakfast. By comparison, just 35 per cent said children go hungry because their carers see breakfast as unimportant.

The Kellogg’s poll revealed that a staggering 30 per cent of teachers have brought in food specifically for students they suspected hadn’t eaten anything in the morning. In Yorkshire and the Humber – the worst performing region for this statistic – 47 per cent of those surveyed said they’d brought their own food in for students to eat.

A third (31 per cent) have experienced a child falling asleep during class, only to wake and blame their fatigue on hunger or thirst.

The effects of this hunger problem are plain: 75 per cent of teachers said hunger and thirst made children in their class more lethargic, and 62 per cent claimed it made them unable to learn.

Almost half (48 per cent) said hungry children were more disruptive, while 83 per cent said it left them unable to concentrate.

Tellingly, just 1 per cent said skipping breakfast led to children being better behaved.

Jill Rutter, head of research and policy at the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “In one of the world’s richest nations it is disgraceful that nearly 40 per cent of teachers report having children arriving hungry at school every day.

“Missing breakfast has huge impact on children’s ability to concentrate, learn and behave, which affects their results and long-term outcomes.

“Governments in all parts of the UK now recognise that breakfast is essential, but there are too many children who still miss out.

“We are concerned that a third of teachers have felt compelled to bring in food for children who haven’t had breakfast.

“The Family and Childcare Trust encourages schools to take up the opportunities offered by Kellogg’s and set up a breakfast club. Such a small investment can make a real difference for our children, today and in the future.”

The survey comes as Kellogg’s continues its efforts to provide school breakfast clubs for children in deprived areas of the UK.

Paul Wheeler, a Kellogg’s spokesperson, said: “It’s a crying shame that so many children are going to school without having eaten a basic breakfast.

“When your stomach’s rumbling it’s hard to concentrate on anything else, so it’s no small wonder we’re hearing about children becoming badly behaved and unwilling to learn when they’re hungry.

“That’s why over the past 16 years, Kellogg’s has set up more than 1,000 new breakfast clubs in some of the country’s most deprived areas.”

A Kellogg’s audit** of more than 4,000 school staff showed that 85 per cent of schools now have a breakfast club, and for most (54 per cent) the primary motivation for setting one up was the number of children coming to school hungry.

Schools are noticing other benefits. Some 45 per cent of schools said their breakfast club had improved overall attendance, while almost half (49 per cent) noted improved concentration. Impressively, 41 per cent said there was a direct link between their breakfast club and an improvement in pupil behaviour, and 15 per cent believed it had contributed to better exam results.

*Based on a YouGov survey of 873 teachers in England and Wales. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 873 teachers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11-23 December 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the England and Wales school population by school phase, location and teacher gender.

**Based on a separate, hitherto unpublished Kellogg’s/Association for Public Service Excellence survey of 4,010 UK school staff taken in May 2014