Teachers in Scottish schools are buying food for pupils to stop them starting classes hungry, a charity has warned as it announced plans to provide free breakfasts for 400 children a day.
Some pupils are so reliant on school meals that they often do not eat between lunch and attending a breakfast club the following day, the Magic Breakfast charity said.
The organisation, which already provides free breakfasts to more than 31,000 pupils at schools in England, is formally launching in Scotland today.
It is now working with 13 schools in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife and North Ayrshire, reaching more than 400 children in Scotland every day.
It also plans to begin delivering food and support to schools in East Ayrshire, Falkirk, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire later this year.
The charity delivers food to schools with high numbers of pupils from the nation’s most deprived areas.
It provides low-sugar cereal, porridge, unsweetened juice and zero fat bagels fortified with vitamin D. Facilities and staff are provided by the schools themselves.
Tracy Freeman, the charity’s regional lead for Scotland, said she had been shocked by some of the things she had heard from teachers.
“I often heard how breakfast was the first meal some children would have eaten since the school lunch the day before,” she said. “At almost every school I visited there was evidence of teachers paying for food themselves to address the hunger they saw in their classroom every day.
“These teachers realised that by giving food to children at risk of hunger before they started class, they might be able to concentrate and learn.”
Magic Breakfast’s work was supported by i’s 2017 Christmas Appeal, benefiting from donations from readers amounting to £175,000 to date.
Last year a report by the EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, found that some school staff had witnessed hungry children stealing food from their classmates.
Anthony Currie, headteacher of St Joseph’s RC Primary School in Edinburgh, said its pupils had “thrived” since the introduction of free breakfasts through the charity.