Levelling-up School Breakfast

Please demand sustainable funding for school breakfasts, email your MP now.

A plan to improve the life chances of pupils hardest hit by the Covid-19

The levelling-up agenda is about healing some of the great social divides in our country and giving everyone a chance to climb the ladder of opportunity.

This proposal offers a bold new intervention with a proven track record that would enable the Government to take the levelling-up agenda further, faster, by comprehensively addressing child morning hunger. It would enable schools to reach 893,000 of the most disadvantaged children and their families with a nutritious school breakfast, costing the Department for Education an additional £75 million annually.

This spending proposal builds on the original work of the charity Magic Breakfast and the Department for Education delivering school breakfast provision in 2014 and 2018-2021[i].

The Proposal

The proposal is modestly costed, with expenditure raised from existing tax revenue. It would apply to all eligible state funded primary, special schools, and pupil referral units, with an option for later expansion to state funded secondary. It should replace the Department for Education’s current National School Breakfast Programme (NSBP), which reaches only 30% of eligible schools and doesn’t offer these schools the support they need to reach children most at risk of hunger. This proposal improves on current NSBP provision by making school breakfast provision permanent, sustainable, and available for all schools with high levels of disadvantage. The proposal will apply to England only, as education is a devolved issue.

The proposal will give schools with significant evidence of need support to provide a free nutritious breakfast, that meets School Food Standards, to all children. ‘Significant evidence of need’ will be defined within existing DfE guidance as schools with at least 50% of pupils in IDACI bands A-F. IDACI, The Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index, estimates the number of children living in low-income households and bands A-F signify the highest levels of deprivation. Schools will be guaranteed additional funding to cover the costs of breakfast food and delivery. Schools will also benefit from dedicated staff support in the form of an expert ‘school partner’, who are proven to play a key role in improving the uptake of the hardest-to-reach families and the effective implementation by schools of the breakfast provision[ii].

The proposal will also place a requirement on the Department for Education (DfE) to offer funding for the food and delivery costs of school breakfasts for the estimated 7300 schools with 50% or more of pupils in IDACI bands A-F.

All schools receiving funds to provide free school breakfasts would be required to adhere to a set of terms and conditions, designed to ensure funding reaches children at risk of hunger. Schools would be held accountable and required to report on pupils helped and funds spent annually by submitting a report to DfE and publishing it on their website.


Reducing food insecurity: 

2.3 million children are currently living in a household experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity, where families are compromising on the quantity and quality of the food they consume[iii]. This proposal would reach 893,000 primary age children in households of multiple disadvantage with a hunger focused intervention.

Closing the attainment gap:

School breakfast hunger contributes to the educational attainment gap. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more than 9 months behind their wealthier peers by the time they leave primary school, limiting further education and employment opportunities.[iv]

An Institute for Fiscal Studies evaluation found that Year 2 pupils in schools with universal free school breakfast provision made two months additional academic progress over the course of a year, compared to children in schools with no breakfast provision[v]. The study also reported that the pupils’ concentration and behaviour improved too. Additionally, teachers surveyed by a Kellogg’s report noted that children arriving at school hungry missed out on one hour of learning each day.[vi]

Benefits to life chances and future earning potential

A study by Leeds University found that children who regularly ate breakfast achieved an average of 2 GCSEs grades higher than children who rarely ate breakfast[vii]. Research by Pro Bono Economics found that for every £1 invested by government in school breakfast provision, there is £50 of returns in the economy in the longer-term due to increased lifetime earning potential[viii].


This proposal would benefit 893,000 children and involves additional Department for Education expenditure of £75m per year, replacing existing breakfast provision with an intervention that reaches children in a hunger-focused and stigma-free way.

Costings and assumptions have been developed from work with Magic Breakfast, Heinz and Pro Bono Economics, as well as known costs from the NSPB delivered by Magic Breakfast and Family Action for the DfE, which ended in 2021. Full workings can be supplied on request.

Funding sources

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL): The SDIL raises approximately £340m annually and was intended for programmes benefiting school children’s diets and physical activity.

We are proposing £75m could be allocated using existing unallocated monies within the SDIL. Additionally, the Children’s Food Campaign have estimated that £50m in revenue could be raised to the SDIL via adjustments to the threshold for high-sugar products.[ix]

[i] National School Breakfast Programme | Magic Breakfast

[ii] Education Endowment Foundation. The National School Breakfast Programme: Scale-up Evaluation Report. September 2021, https://d2tic4wvo1iusb.cloudfront.net/documents/projects/NSBP-evaluation-report.pdf

[iii]  The Food Foundation. The impact of Covid-19 on household food insecurity. January 2021, FF_Impact-of-Covid_FINAL.pdf (foodfoundation.org.uk)

[iv]  Education Policy Institute. Closing the gap? Trends in educational attainment and disadvantage. August 2017, Closing-the-Gap_EPI-.pdf

[v]  Educational Endowment Fund report, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies acting as the independent evaluator. January 2017, Magic Breakfast | EEF (educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk)

[vi] Kellogg’s. A lost education: The reality of hunger in the classroom. September 2013, R2_Kellogg_A_Lost_Education.pdf (kelloggs.co.uk)

[vii] The University of Leeds. Associations between habitual school day breakfast consumption frequency and academyc performance in British adolescents. November 2019, Frontiers | Associations Between Habitual School-Day Breakfast Consumption Frequency and Academic Performance in British Adolescents | Public Health (frontiersin.org)

[viii] Pro Bono Economics. The Magic Breakfast model of school breakfast provision. February 2021, The Magic Breakfast model of school breakfast provision | Pro Bono Economics

[ix] Sustain. Five Actions for government spending review to increase children’s access to healthy food. September 2021, https://www.sustainweb.org/news/sep20-csr20/