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Journal entry

More than a partnership

Thoughts from Carmel McConnell MBE

Last year we began our partnership with Magic Breakfast to help them end hunger as a barrier to education in the UK. Carmel McConnell – the Founder and Chief Executive of Magic Breakfast – is a fantastic friend of Dishoom. She has kindly written a blog post for us, in which she speaks of shared values, breaking down barriers and why Magic Breakfast is so important.

Magic Breakfast is a charity with one objective – to make sure no child starts their school day too hungry to learn. The Dishoom team work alongside us as incredibly generous, close and like-minded partners, fundraising and supporting our daily school breakfast programme which now reaches 31,000 children every morning across 467 schools.

But if you have not heard about any of this – let me tell you why Magic Breakfast is needed and why we so value the support of our friends at Dishoom. Sending a child off with a full stomach to school seems like a given, but in reality more than half a million children in the UK arrive at school too hungry or malnourished to learn. This is a national disgrace and it has both short and long term consequences for a child’s educational attainment and social mobility. I started the charity over a decade ago, totally shocked that in this rich and caring country, we allow this level of social failure to happen. A hungry child cannot concentrate, and the most important lessons are taught in the morning. So when – for whatever reason – a child arrives at school without food, there is a palpable unfairness, a discounting of that child simply because of an accident of birth. So apart from being the most important meal of the day, breakfast for hungry children doesn’t just mean breakfast; it means giving the most disadvantaged and marginalised amongst us a better chance to achieve educationally.

We really need help to do this. Dishoom are helping us by donating the cost of a breakfast for every breakfast served in their restaurants. So far this has raised enough for 300,000 breakfasts. So for every breakfast bought at Dishoom (and who doesn’t want chai and an egg naan roll to start the day!) we can ensure a child is equipped to concentrate, behave well, and absorb the education that they need and deserve. There are many wonderful things to celebrate about this partnership but one I cherish is the fact that Shamil and his team link the sharing of good, delicious food with love. It feels like a shared, fundamental Dishoom delight that food brings all kinds of joy into our lives. In our London partner schools, many of which get a very exciting Chef visit and workshop, our nutritionists and school partners love helping children feel better with their tasty, nutritious breakfasts. We deliver porridge, bagels, low sugar cereals and fresh orange juice (diluted 50/50 of course!) These shared values – the love of good food and the faith we have in shared human experiences around food – create more than just a charity partnership, in my view they create a shared view of a more caring, cohesive society. Which, given recent elections, we can really do with!

If you wonder if this breakfast is only balm for souls, but not actually hitting the educational outcomes, new independent research by the Education Endowment Foundation, conducted by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Children’s Bureau, has shown that breakfast clubs that offer pupils in primary schools a free and nutritious meal before school can boost their reading, writing and maths results by the equivalent of two months’ progress over the course of a year. The study also found this had positive benefits for behaviour and concentration. With children from disadvantaged backgrounds already known to arrive at primary school behind their more advantaged peers in terms of their educational chances, this is a clear way to help level the playing field before it’s too late.

In 2016, no child should go to school too hungry to learn. Children fainting and sliding down their chair from hunger in lessons is totally unacceptable in modern Britain. The good news is there is a solution and it costs 22p per pupil per day – this is the cost of a national nutritious breakfast programme in all primary schools across the UK. This would ensure that more children gain back those extra two months they are losing out on because they are too hungry to learn. The long-term benefits for our country are enormous.

So, with this research under our arms, we are doing everything to persuade Government policy makers that Magic Breakfast support in every hunger-hit school is a good investment for the child and the UK as a whole. While we’re making that happen, Dishoom and our other partners help us provide food and support for these schools. It is described as a vital lifeline for vulnerable families as teachers tell us the main reason these children arrive hungry is because the parents are hungry too, often missing meals to make sure their children are fed.

That’s pretty stark, isn’t it? And I only mention it because I was shocked, maybe as you are now, that this is happening in the sixth richest economy in the world.

So a huge thank you to Dishoom from all of us at Magic Breakfast. Thank you for helping us maintain food and support with current schools and hopefully reach the 300 schools on our waiting list. Thank you for the great events you run in our schools. Thank you too for the amazing food, right around the corner from our offices.

Carmel McConnell MBE, Founder and Chief Executive of Magic Breakfast.

More information, or to donate, please see www.magicbreakfast.com

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Akshay Khanna

Excellent Initiative. Wish this inspires others too and in many other areas that are gripping the society.