Imagine for a moment a child, let’s call her Eilidh. Eilidh lives with her mum, Catherine – a receptionist at the local hotel – and her big brother James. This morning, Eilidh went to school hungry, like she’s done on many mornings since she started Primary One last August.
Catherine knows how foundational Primary One is for Eilidh, learning numbers and phonics. She understands the impact struggling this year could have on her moving forward. She does her best to ensure Eilidh and James have the fuel they need before heading off to school in the morning but sometimes it’s not possible. As food prices seem to never stop rising and her pay isn’t keeping up, she has to choose her priorities for Eilidh and James between different meals, clothing, and keeping them warm.
In class Eilidh struggles while looking at the whiteboard. She can feel her tummy rumbling and misses most of the questions her teacher asks. Miss Macrae tries her best to support Eilidh, knowing that she’s always better in the afternoons once she’s had lunch, but worries about the multitude of hours of learning she’s missing every week.
In 2021, Catherine looked on with hope as the Scottish Government told her and other families across the country that they would deliver free universal breakfast provision across all primary and special schools. Back then, Eilidh was just over 3 years old. It was Catherine’s hope that the provision would support Eilidh, but so far there has been radio silence on when this will happen.
Eilidh has the potential to be an astronaut, a First Minister, a star of stage or screen. Catherine is doing all she can to help foster that potential, she’s grateful for the support the Scottish Government have offered her through free childcare and the Scottish Child Payment, but she needs them to meet their promises to Eilidh.
Eilidh might not be real, but her story is all too true. Our research shows that each school morning there are 250,000 children and young people in Scotland, just like Eilidh, going to school at risk of hunger.
This September, it will be two years since the Scottish Government promised children and young people in primary and special schools a free and universal breakfast. Since then, not a single slice of toast or bowl of porridge funded by the Government has reached a child at risk of morning hunger.
By failing to deliver on their promise, they are failing young Scots.
In September, Humza Yousaf has a chance to right this wrong and create a future where no child or young person is too hungry to learn. Magic Breakfast are calling on the First Minister to include an actionable plan to deliver universal free breakfasts in this year’s Programme for Government.
Humza Yousaf’s first Programme for Government will be a seminal moment for his Government. He can use this to continue the delays, or he can make good on the promises made to young Scots. Extending free school lunches, delivering the Scottish Child Payment both show the Government’s commitments, but now is their chance to go further.
Eilidh can’t wait. Scotland’s children and young people can’t wait. Breakfast can’t wait.