Archbishop Nichols sat down for breakfast with over 80 children in Tower Hamlets this morning.
The Archbishop joined pupils, parents and staff from St Mary’s and St Michael’s in Tower Hamlets in the parish hall next door to the school, which is one of five schools in Westminster Diocese which are part of the scheme. The initiative between Caritas Diocese of Westminster, the Diocese’s social action agency, and Magic Breakfast aims to provide free, healthy breakfasts for every child at primary level in those schools.
Magic Breakfast currently feeds 8,000 children every morning in over 240 primary schools across seven cities with a further 160 schools on its waiting list.
The benefits to pupils is clear with over 90% of schools working with Magic Breakfast reporting increased concentration during lessons, improved attendance and attainment. The collaboration between Caritas Diocese of Westminster and Magic Breakfast comes at a time of increased awareness about the need for good nutrition among school pupils and political parties pushing for an increase in free school meals.
Carmel McConnell, founder of the charity Magic Breakfast said well over 500,000 school pupils across the country were arriving at school hungry or malnourished.
“These figures are truly alarming. Children only have one chance at education. We want to make a practical difference and this certainly does that from all of the reports coming back from school. The government proposals for free lunches shows they understand how important this issue is and teachers point to the fact that the most important lessons of the day are in the morning so breakfast is the most important meal of the day for these pupils. Our aim is that every child in the country should be fed so they can learn at school.”
Archbishop Nichols said he fully supported the aims of the charity and welcomed the collaboration.
“In addition to the important aims of this initiative in enabling children to make the most of their education, this is a joyful environment. You just have to look at everyone involved. The volunteering is done in a spirit of service and is done through love. It links family to school to parish and so has additional benefits in building community. I am hopeful this is something that can expand, enabling pupils to flourish and for the learning to be taken on both in the home and more widely.”
Ian Jones, the acting head of St Mary and St Michael, said he was delighted with the scheme.
“It has made a real difference to attendance, concentration and achievement. And it is growing all of the time, so we also have parents and toddlers coming in after the pupils go off to school and hopefully this increases parents’ skills when it comes to nutrition. All of this can only benefit the pupils.”
John Coleby, Director of Caritas Diocese of Westminster spoke about the value of the project:
“Our work with schools such as St Mary’s and Michael’s and Magic Breakfast is essential to ensure that children can make the most of their educational opportunities and life chances. Our aim is to respond with love to need whenever we see it. This project responds to the need for a healthy breakfast as well as providing an environment for families, teachers and friends to share aspirations and reach out to each other, strengthening and empowering the whole community.”