Teenagers up and down the UK are coming to school hungry every day, a new survey has revealed.
The Kellogg’s study found that four in 10 teachers believed one reason children in their class were hungry was due to their parents being unable to afford food for breakfast.
Worryingly, missing the vital morning meal means our teenagers are losing up to 51 minutes of learning per day due to hunger.
Almost half of the 500 UK secondary teachers’ surveyed claimed children aged 11 to 16 failed to understand why breakfast is so important and how it enriches their learning.
The concerning study also found that teachers battling with hungry teenagers in the classroom were often left dealing with others unable to concentrate (73%), an increase in misbehaviour (28%) or grumpiness from class members in the morning (34%).
So how does breakfast affect our concentration and behaviour?
Breakfast is vital in re-fuelling the body with energy and nutrients, which is important for kick-starting the day. If breakfast is missed, the result can be feeling lethargic and tired and lead to difficulty concentrating and behaviour difficulties in the school environment.
Breakfast provides pupils with energy and essential nutrients, including iron, calcium and vitamins B and C, which are necessary for growth, development and good health. Pupils who eat breakfast each day are much more likely to meet their daily nutritional requirements.
When asked how many minutes of learning the average hungry teen loses a day, teachers estimated a shocking 51 minutes, that’s approximately 10 hours and 20 minutes if they go to school with an empty stomach once a week for a whole school term.
A further study found that nearly half of the 1,000 children surveyed had attended a breakfast club in primary school, but only a mere fifth go to a morning school club to get something to eat before class at secondary school.
Surprisingly, the research also disclosed that around one in 10 children feel too ashamed to eat in front of their friends, potentially putting them off attending a breakfast club before school.
Breakfast clubs are often put in place by some schools to ensure the pupils get something to eat before starting the school day.
The Pingle Academy, in Swadlincote, runs a breakfast club to ensure children are performing at their best. Staff at the school believe the morning meal is pivotal for maintaining attendance, concentration and learning in children.
Deb Holland, assistant head teacher at the school, said: “We have run a school breakfast club for around five years here at Pingle. Its aim to provide a healthy start to the school day has certainly been achieved and the knock on benefits to the students is plain to see.
“The benefits for the students of having something to eat first thing in the morning are considerable. They are able to concentrate more, their mood is better and this leads to more energy and better learning. The benefits extend beyond this though.
“It provides somewhere before the school day starts to relax, meet their friends and catch up with each other. When they go off to form at the start of the day, they are ready to learn because they have seen each other already in breakfast club.
Mrs Holland said the breakfast club is an area where students can also help each other with homework. The tables at the school are specifically designed to encourage students to interact, be sociable and learn skills that come with sharing meal times with others.
“The breakfast club has achieved much more than it was ever expected to because the students start the school day already fed, relaxed and caught up with friends and they are ready for learning.”