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Children surviving on one slice of bread a day and struggling to stay awake in class, warns school boss

Manchester Evening News logo Manchester Evening News 07/03/2022 Hannah Neary & Kieran Isgin

A school boss has warned kids are going hungry at home and surviving on as little as one slice of bread a day.

Sally Brooks has seen a rise in families using food banks while students have struggled to stay awake in lessons because their parents cannot afford food.

One boy had been arriving at school an hour late for over a week and was struggling to stay awake, MyLondon reports.

Ms Brooks, executive principal at Fulham Cross Academy, west London, said: "There just wasn’t any food at home.

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"Mum had had to use the money to make sure that the house had electricity.

"For younger siblings they prioritised feeding them. They were basically surviving on a slice of bread and something they could put on it.

"He was not able to get up in the morning. We have now been able get him into the breakfast club.

"We have had a father come in asking for sanitary products for teenage girls and that takes a lot of guts to do."

The headteacher said that the number of families using her school's food bank has almost doubled to 45 in a year.

Ms Brooks said: "The high level of deprivation has been impacted by Brexit and the pandemic

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"Lots of families have found themselves without work or have had jobs kind of curtailed and the money going into the household hasn't been enough."

Every student at the school is entitled to a free school lunch, regardless of their family's income due to a local council scheme launched in January 2020. Ms Brooks praised the programme, saying it helps students have a balanced diet.

She said the free lunch service has been a great success and was surprised by how many older students use it.

Principal Sally Brooks © Fulham Cross Academy Principal Sally Brooks

She added: "The take-up of it doubled in our school, interestingly amongst sixth formers. We are seeing high concentration levels in the afternoon and increased participation in after school activities.

"We see the school as an extension of the family. I think every child in London should have access to a free school meal so we know our children are nourished enough to learn."

Ms Brooks said child hunger is a nationwide problem and warned of more families facing a struggle to feed themselves because of the rising cost of living.

Let us know if you've seen the rising cost of living affect schools near you in the comments section!

She added: "I'm really concerned about what’s going to happen in the next six months, particularly around rising energy costs and rising food bills. That could be like a silent pandemic if we aren’t really conscious of it and taking proactive steps to prevent that happening.

"For some, the meal that they get in school at lunch time is the only meal that they have. It obviously impacts on ability to learn. If you’re not eating it’s really hard to sustain concentration in education. We have always had a group of children who we notice are not eating enough."

Hammersmith and Fulham council were the first authority in England and Wales to carry out free lunches at secondary schools. Currently, two schools benefit from the four-year scheme: Fulham Cross Academy and Woodlane High School.

Every primary school pupil in the borough is also offered a free breakfast under the scheme.

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford was hailed a 'hero' after forcing the government to extend free school meals over the school holidays in 2020.

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