Nearly two thirds of teachers in Scotland fear rise in hunger among children returning to school

Coalition of breakfast food companies and distributors back calls by teachers and Magic Breakfast charity for a permanent Government-led school breakfast programme

12 August 2020:   Magic Breakfast charity has published a YouGov survey of teachers, highlighting the impact of hunger on children’s learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey was commissioned by a group of food companies and distributors which support Magic Breakfast through gift in kind donations – Arla, Heinz, Kellogg’s, New York Bakery Co.

The survey found that:

·         62% of Scottish teachers surveyed anticipate there will be an increase in the number of children arriving at school hungry as schools re-open.  

·         71% of Scottish teachers surveyed think that hunger will harm efforts to catch children up on the learning they missed out on during school closures.

The survey also asked teachers what policies they support to tackle child hunger. Scottish teachers overwhelmingly want firm action taken to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free school breakfast. The survey found that:

·         89% of Scottish teachers surveyed support a nationwide programme to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free breakfast during the school term.

·         76% of Scottish teachers surveyed believe that school breakfasts will help children catch up on learning.

These findings reinforce previous research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Education Endowment Foundation which found that Year 2 pupils in schools with a universal, free school breakfast provision made two months’ additional academic progress in one year, compared to children in schools with no such breakfast provision.

The survey also highlighted the impact of school closures on Scottish children’s educational attainment and well-being.

·         80% of teachers surveyed from Scottish schools think coronavirus has negatively affected their pupils’ educational attainment.  

·         75% of teachers surveyed from Scottish schools think coronavirus has negatively affected their pupil’s mental health and wellbeing.

In light of the survey results, Magic Breakfast is calling for school breakfast legislation to guarantee schools with high levels of disadvantage the long-term, sustained support they need to provide free school breakfasts to children at risk of hunger.

This call has been backed by Arla, Heinz, Kellogg’s, and the New York Bakery Co. who have been working with Magic Breakfast to get breakfast food to children throughout the pandemic, whether they are at school or under lockdown at home.

Alex Cunningham, CEO of Magic Breakfast, said:

“After months of school closures, it is deeply worrying that so many children in Scotland are expected to return to school too hungry to catch up on the learning they have missed out on. Without a long-term solution to combat morning hunger, these children will fall even further behind and the education attainment gap will continue to widen.

“During the pandemic, we have rightly applauded teachers who have gone above and beyond for their pupils. Now we must act to address their concerns. We welcome the recognition by the Scottish Government of the contribution breakfast clubs make in closing the poverty related attainment gap. However, permanent legislation is needed to guarantee that all children at risk of hunger in all Scottish schools have access to a free healthy school breakfast, to unlock hours of learning and enable them to reach their full potential”.

Kathleen McBride, Principal Teacher of Nurture, Lourdes Secondary School, Glasgow, said:

“As with so many school communities across the country, our families and young people have been dealt a severe blow with the onset of Covid-19, the subsequent lockdown and its many far-reaching and complex ramifications. Thankfully, our school have had Magic Breakfast at our side; supporting us to support our young people through this time when food insecurity has been manifestly a concern for many.

“Thanks to Magic Breakfast, we were one of the schools fortunate enough to be able to continue to deliver nutritious breakfast ingredients to our young people throughout lockdown, and will always be grateful that in our time of need we could support our young people; and in so doing help promote their recovery through this traumatic period.”

Children at risk of hunger have variable access to a free school breakfast, depending on where in Scotland they live and whether they meet specific eligibility criteria. Magic Breakfast supports 39 schools in Scotland.


Notes to Editors

●     This poll was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Magic Breakfast and with support from Arla, Heinz, Kellogg’s, and New York Bakery Co. The survey was live between 20 June 2020 and 29 June 2020. 725 primary and secondary school teachers from England and Scotland responded. 76 teachers from Scotland responded.

●     Other key findings:

•     88% of Scottish teachers surveyed support a nationwide programme to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free breakfast during the holidays.

•       62% of Scottish teachers surveyed have noticed disadvantaged pupils falling behind academically after previous summer holidays.

•     59% of Scottish teachers surveyed think the government isn’t doing enough to support children at risk of hunger.

For full details of the survey, please CLICK HERE.

About Magic Breakfast

●     Magic Breakfast is a registered charity providing healthy breakfasts and wrap-around support to children in the UK who arrive at school too hungry to learn. The charity works with 480 schools in disadvantaged areas of Scotland and England, normally ensuring that more than 48,400 children start their school day with the energy and nutrition they need to be able to make the most of their morning lessons.

●     Magic Breakfast has continued to provide healthy breakfasts to children at risk of hunger during the Covid-19 crisis, whether at school or home. Food for breakfast packs has been delivered to the charity’s partner schools (or local hubs) for collection by families or distribution by school staff or volunteers to children’s homes. In addition, Amazon have been delivering parcels of breakfast food to the doorsteps of families who would be difficult to reach otherwise. Breakfast deliveries continued throughout the school summer holidays.

●      Before the coronavirus pandemic, as many as 1.8 million school age children in the UK were at risk of hunger in the morning.1

●      According to the Food Foundation, food insecurity among children has doubled since COVID-19 began, with 2 million children affected in the first five weeks of lockdown.2

1 Ref: Pereira, A.L., Handa, S. and Holmqvist, G. Prevalence. Correlates of Food Insecurity Among Children Across the Globe, Innocenti Working Paper, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence. 2017.

2 Ref: Food Foundation. May 2020,


For interviews or further information, please contact Jo Matthews at Magic Breakfast [[email protected] or 07377 177443]