Carmel McConnell talk

CarmelMcConnell_portraitCarmel points out that we live in the 6th richest economy and a great loving country, but we are living towards the end of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. Prices have gone up and wages down, which has led to a problem of child hunger, and this is a real problem for education.

0.5m children in the country go to school too hungry to learn. Children get a great lunch, but the most important lessons are usually in the morning.

Carmel was researching a book on change activism, during which she spoke to headteachers about inequality. They all said that they had hungry children, and across the country, 55% of teachers are bringing in food for children. She asked why the parents aren’t feeding their children… and was told the parents are hungry too. Children were late or not attending school, because they were foraging for food, and they had behavioural problems.

So she started bringing food to five schools every day. And that made a difference. Children were attending and on time. They could focus, and behaviour and social interaction improved. Carmel therefore had a hard decision… continue to advise big business on making a difference, or make a difference herself.

She chose the latter, so now Magic Breakfast is delivering breakfast to 17,000 children every day, at a cost of 22p per child per day, or £45 per year. They want to reach the 0.5m sustainably, tackle holiday hunger, and make the case for change. They are only a small team, and need to be catalytic on the ground. Ofsted is on board, as the project is driving improvements in school performance.

Carmel tells the story of Zara, who is seven. She often needed to ask for food at cafés on the way to school, but often didn’t get any. She was at risk of being excluded for being naughty and affecting the whole school. But after a bagel and a glass of milk, she was settled and the whole school was ready to learn. She visited No.10 with the school, and sat in the PM’s seat. Perhaps Zara or one of those 0.5m could be PM one day?