In the Summer of 2021, the Department for Education (DfE) announced its chosen supplier for the delivery of school breakfast food to approximately 2,500 schools with high levels of disadvantage over the next two years.  

Magic Breakfast did not bid for this funding because we do not believe the contract would allow us to meet our charitable mission – to ensure no child is too hungry to learn. Instead, we are using this moment to establish consensus on the purpose of school breakfast provision and are calling all school breakfast providers to meet the same standards Magic Breakfast delivers to.  

At its most fundamental level, we believe the main purpose of school breakfasts should be to ensure no child starts the day too hungry to learn. School breakfast provision can – and does – have a range of other benefits, but its foundation should be built around the goal of ensuring every child at risk of hunger can access a healthy breakfast without barrier or stigma. The benefits of school breakfasts, including the impact on educational attainment, will only be realised if breakfast reaches children who would have otherwise gone without. 

As a charity supporting over 1,000 schools directly, Magic Breakfast knows how this goal can be achieved. Over the last 20 years, we have developed a set of principles and standards which now constitute the Magic Breakfast approach to school breakfast provision.  The Magic Breakfast model goes far beyond simply delivering food to schools and includes additional advice and support to schools to ensure breakfast provisions are healthy, hunger-focused, barrier free and stigma free.   

‘Barrier free’ means providing breakfasts free of charge and ensuring no matter when, where, or how a child arrives at school, they are able to access a breakfast. ‘Stigma free’ means no child misses out on breakfast as a result of shame or embarrassment. We believe that children at risk of hunger have a right to this type of provision.  

Today we call on everyone involved in providing, supporting and delivering school breakfasts to join us in agreeing the aims and standards that should underpin school breakfast provision. We call on all school breakfast providers to meet these standards. To support this, we commit to sharing our understanding and expertise and will publish guidance resources for schools and school breakfast providers. We will make these resources available to all schools, not just those receiving Magic Breakfast support. 

School breakfast provision standards

.1. Clear purpose 

The purpose of school breakfast provision is to ensure children living in households experiencing food insecurity, at risk of hunger, do not start the day with empty stomachs, too hungry to learn. This aim must be front and centre in all communications to schools.  

Success is therefore not achieved by simply setting up a breakfast club. Success is working with schools so that every child at risk of hunger has access to a breakfast without barrier or stigma.  

.2. Support for schools to understand and address hunger 

Schools carry a heavy burden of societal issues and, even with excellent pastoral care, hunger is often masked. Schools need to be supported, persuaded and challenged to consider hunger and trial a new approach to reach every hungry child in order to see the benefits and build the will to continue. Magic Breakfast staff (known as School Partners) provide expert support and challenge, and maintain a commitment to school breakfast provision, so that even when budgets are tight, challenges arrive or key staff move on, hunger-focused breakfast provision remains at the core of a school’s thinking. 

.3. Breakfast delivery that is barrier and stigma free 

Every school has a unique setting, timetable, community and challenges. Breakfast provision must be tailored to fit with the school’s context and ensure there are no barriers (such as cost or timing) or stigma.  

Setting up a before-school breakfast club is often not enough to reach children at risk of hunger. Traditional before-school breakfast clubs can work, if underpinned by effective targeting and promotion. But in many schools, the children most in need of breakfast often arrive 10 minutes before the bell, or after the bell, and schools need additional strategies to reach these children. Often a classroom breakfast provision, or a healthy “grab and go” provision, can be more suited to the school, and the level of need. 

.4. The right kind of healthy breakfast food  

Breakfast food supply needs to be healthy, affordable, consistent, reliable and fit for purpose. It cannot rely on surplus food alone. Schools need food that fits their breakfast model. Healthy “grab and go” provision, for example, limits the types of foods that work, and schools need to be able to set up and clear up easily. Of course, all food provided should also comply with School Food Standards. 

At Magic Breakfast we put no limit on how much food a school can order. Our membership model means that schools are not penalised or disadvantaged by ordering more food in order to ensure hunger is not a barrier to learning. In fact, we encourage schools to constantly review take-up and increase their orders to meet demand where appropriate, at no additional cost. 

.5. Start up support and equipment grants 

Magic Breakfast provides specific support and funding for schools establishing or growing a breakfast provision. This enables schools to set up breakfast at scale by purchasing equipment such as catering toasters and large freezers. 

.6. Monitoring and accountability  

It’s important that once a breakfast club is established, that it is regularly monitored for attendance and impact. There needs to be regular analysis of which children are attending, which children are not attending and why. This prompts a discussion about potential changes and improvements.  

At Magic Breakfast we require Head Teachers we work with to sign up to a set of terms and conditions that set out our expectations and invite commitment from school leaders to tackle classroom hunger. Our School Partners then check in regularly to monitor and improve a school’s breakfast provision against an agreed outcomes framework, which helps to ensure that schools are reflecting on their performance.  

We believe school breakfast providers need to support schools to consider the impact of breakfast, in order to ensure there is accountability for how breakfast is being provided, and that the school is ensuring no child is too hungry to learn.  

We call on every school breakfast provider to deliver a healthy, hunger-focused, stigma free, barrier free school breakfast provision in line with the standards outlined above. We stand ready to meet and share our expertise in order to ensure hunger-focused school breakfast provision is embedded in every state-supported school in the UK. Together, we can reach many more children at risk of hunger to ensure that no child in the UK starts their day too hungry to learn. Research shows that this will boost children’s educational attainment and unlock economic opportunities for children later in life.