Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Social enterprise scrambles to feed soaring numbers of hungry school children
A social enterprise that provides free breakfasts to primary schools told Channel 4 News today that it has seen a four-fold rise in its waiting list in the last four months, amid fears that child poverty is on the rise. SEL member, Magic Breakfast, has been providing free breakfasts for nine years to UK primary schools where over 50 per cent of pupils are on free school meals.
The following article as seen on Channel 4 News website tells us that in the last four months, the Magic Breakfast waiting list has gone from 20 schools to 80 - and rising. The charity and social enterprise, which won a "Big Society" award last year, provides food for 6,000 children in 200 schools and is now struggling to meet the increased demand.
Founder Carmel McConnell told the news, "All of those application forms from schools - it's stories of real deprivation, where kids are going home to empty cupboards."
Pupils at Keyworth Primary School, south London, as featured in the video above, are fans of the bagels, rice crispies and orange juice provided free of charge every morning.
Since Magic Breakfast started providing free breakfasts at the school a year ago, the number of pupils at the breakfast club jumped from 40 to over 70, plus reception and nursery pupils.
Assistant headteacher Claire Eastwood told Channel 4 News that the difference when children are given healthy food in the morning is noticeable.
FareShare, an umbrella organisation representing 700 food charities, and another SEL member, has also reported a doubling of in demand for its breakfast club and youth services from 2008 to 2011.
Channel 4 tells us that the increased reliance on food charities follows recent predictions from the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) that the government is unlikely to hit its target to eliminate child poverty by 2020.
According to a new report from the End Child Poverty campaign, one in three children - almost four million - currently lives in poverty in the UK. What this means is that the children live in households where the income is below 60 per cent of the median UK household income.
And the forecast is that this is going to get worse. IFS predicts that the number of children in relative child poverty will rise by 400,000 from 2010/11 to 2015/16, and that absolute poverty will rise by 500,000. This basically means that there will be another 100,000 children living in poverty each year.
"The recession is really hitting this country. And for families that are just above the breadline that are working very hard, it's really tough," McConnell told Channel 4 News.
This certainly reflects what other SEL members have been telling me, especially those working on the front lines with the most vulnerable families. Demand for services are going up while resources to meet those needs are challenging to access. Social enterprises like Magic Breakfast that enlist the support of local business are leading the way in brokering enterprise-based solutions to some of the UK's most dramatic social problems.