Food Poverty and schools in Devon: Briefing


   Special Edition 26 June 2015     Food Poverty and schools in Devon: Briefing

Food Poverty and Schools in Devon: Briefing

"Food poverty is ‘the inability to access or afford food to make up a healthy diet’. This can include quality as well as quantity of food. Food poverty is a complex issue but schools have an important role to play in ensuring that no child is distracted by hunger or poor nutrition. Schools provision to improve children and young people’s access to a healthy diet is one aspect of delivering the early help strategy" - Sue Clarke, Head of Education & Learning and Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health

Thank you to the 79 schools who completed a survey on food poverty in May 2015, the results have informed this briefing. 56% agree or strongly agree that food poverty, including children turning up to school hungry and going hungry in the holidays, is an issue in their school. 

This Briefing includes an update on:

  • Breakfast clubs
  • Holiday schemes
  • Food banks
  • Whole-school approach to food and healthy eating
  • Increasing free school meal uptake

Breakfast clubs

Breakfast clubs can support nutrition, social and educational outcomes. 64% of respondents in Devon run a breakfast club.

Most ensure that free school meal eligible children can come for free, for example by using pupil premium or other funds where appropriate, or funds from partner agencies. Consider finding sponsorship for breakfast clubs from local businesses or charities.

Breakfast club offers free breakfast to any child who comes in. We offer cereals, toast and juice. Parents make donations of food and drink if they can. The club caters for about 20 children per day - out of 77 - and provides valuable nutrition and socialisation. Children help to set the tables and clear up. We feel that this is a very valuable part of our provision. We utilise some of pupil premium to help fund the breakfast club but the school is happy to meet the additional costs because we can see the benefits in terms of improved concentration, better diet and improved social interactions and responsibility.” Lew Trenchard Primary School, Okehampton

Magic Breakfast is a national charity delivering free, nutritious breakfasts to schools where over 35% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. Watch Carmel McConnell’s recent talk at TEDxExeter in April 2015.

Magic Breakfast logo

Holiday schemes

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food recently highlighted that school holidays can be challenging for families who rely on free school meals during term-time. They published a report on Filling the Holiday Hunger Gap and a guide to planning school holiday projects. 52% of Devon schools run an after school club where food is provided. 35% run holiday schemes but only 18% provide food. Many of these are paid schemes so may not be accessed by the most disadvantaged pupils. Schools can consider a range of solutions by working in partnership with their local community, such as youth groups, children’s centres, businesses or charities.

We use some of our pupil premium funding to provide safe places for children in the holidays through the holiday club and we also use the breakfast club to provide an 'airlock' from a disruptive home so the transition from home to school in the morning is less traumatic and we know that the child/ren concerned have breakfast.”  St Martin’s Primary and Nursery School, Cranbrook

National and local examples

Holiday Kitchen offers family learning, food and play opportunities during the school holidays to children in the West Midlands. The aim is to improve children’s well-being, educational outcomes and life-chances through fun activities and experiences. The evaluation report provides useful learning, such as how to run a scheme that is enjoyable, non-stigmatising and provides added value through educational and health activities.

Make Lunch logo

Make Lunch is a national charity that partners churches with schools to open community kitchens in the holidays. One of the coordinators, Steph Walker, is based in Exeter and can answer questions about how the scheme works. Contact her at Stoke Hill Primary School, Exeter and The Castle Primary, Tiverton, are both exploring this model and are happy to be contacted to share learning.

The Exeter Community Food Network, part of the Sustainable Food Cities Network, is piloting a Summer Cookery and Crafts School this summer at St Sidwell’s Centre, Exeter, working through local schools to invite children who may particularly benefit. The scheme will include vouchers for families to get discounted meals through the rest of the holiday.

Honiton Primary School link with their local children’s centre and Haytor View Primary School, Newton Abbot, are exploring a partnership between the local community centre, school and children’s centre.

Highweek Primary School, Newton Abbot, have an independently-run holiday club that includes food growing, cooking and eating, continuing the good work that they do under the Food for Life Partnership Award in term-time.

Okehampton College are running a two week summer school for year 6 pupil premium children and exploring if local charities could extend support for the rest of the holidays.

Students who qualify for free school meals at Exmouth Community College are eligible for a free hot meal at the Open Door Community Café in Exmouth during the holidays


Food banks

Food banks meet the immediate needs of people in crisis. Find out the referral route for your local provider and establish a link. Okehampton School raise money for their local food bank as they know in return they help some of their families. Click here for a directory of food aid providers in Devon and Cornwall.

We have first-hand experience of hardship and hunger within families in our community. This includes children who do not get access to sufficient food and adults not eating so their children can be fed. Children going without breakfast is common and they might not have had access to a cooked meal on the previous evening. Use of food banks and donations by charities including access to our school hardship grant is rising. Families will often hide that fact that there is insufficient food in the house and it will not come out until a disclosure from a child, or until the family liaison worker starts to support the family.”


Whole-school approach to food and healthy eating

“The food poverty issue is not just about lack of food, there is a wider issue which is seen through poor diet, poor food choices, an over reliance on processed and ready-made meals. We are addressing this through cookery courses for parents, cookery club for children and making sure healthy choices for a healthy lifestyle are embedded in our curriculum and in our ethos, our menus at breakfast clubs and on residential.” Whipton Barton Federation

The Food for Life Partnership helps schools to transform their food culture through a whole school approach, making healthy, sustainable and tasty food the norm. National research shows that it can increase healthy eating, improve educational outcomes and tackle inequalities.

Food for Life Partnership logo

Any school can use the Food for Life framework and work towards a Food for Life Award, but further support, training and advice is available through local Food for Life Programme manager, Polly Frost, funded by Public Health Devon, including;

  • Cooks Network, for In-house Catering Managers
  • Growing Devon Schools Partnership Forum
  • Transforming School Food Culture

To find out about next term’s courses, please email

Click here for the latest news about Food for Life in Devon.

 The Food for Life Partnership is one way for schools to meet the recommendations of The School Food Plan, and also helps with the new Ofsted requirements for schools to evidence “a culture or ethos of exercise and healthy eating throughout their entire inspection visit, in classrooms as well as the school canteen. They will look at the food on offer and visit the canteen to see the atmosphere and culture in the dining space and the effect it has on pupils’ behaviour.”

Food for Life Partnership works closely with Growing Devon Schools, a partnership supporting teachers in the development and delivery of outdoor experiential curriculum that builds skills, environmental awareness, a lifelong healthy relationship with food and an understanding of its production and preparation.

This short film follows the Growing Devon Schools project as it concludes it's first year of teacher training aimed at bringing children in closer contact with the food they eat by growing vegetables at school.

FFLP image

Contact: Polly Frost, Devon FFLP Programme Manager


M: 07920 047303

Twitter: @SchFoodDevon


Increasing free school meal uptake

Making school meals as appealing and popular as possible for everyone is an important way to eliminate stigma for children eligible for free school meals.  Encourage parents to sign up for free school meals wherever possible, and create a system where children do not know which of their peers are receiving free school meals.

In autumn Devon County Council are launching a citizen’s portal that will enable the applicant to self-serve for free school meals and receive an instant decision on their application. Parents/carers will also be able to use the same portal to access other local authority services, such as 2 year old early years funding and admissions.