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Bread and Breakfast!

A MUM with vivid memories of going to high school hungry says her experiences led her to volunteer with an inspirational charity providing breakfasts for kids in need.


03 June 2024

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Lola Elijah recalls how, at the age of 15, she would walk into the classroom day after day having had nothing to eat, which had a detrimental impact on her ability to concentrate and study.

Now 17 years later, 32-year-old mum of three Lola spends her weekday mornings helping Magic Breakfast at Henry Fawcett Primary School in Lambeth, South London - a charity supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery.

At school, she and a team of helpers make hundreds of bagels every week for pupils from the local community, helping to lighten the morning load for families struggling to provide breakfast - primarily due to time or financial constraints.

Lola moved to Britain from Nigeria as a teenager, and as her school was in a different part of the city to her home, she had a daily two-hour journey by bus and train to her high school in Bermondsey.

Lola said, "It wasn't easy for my mum. We had just come here and were living on the other side of the city from her work. Every morning, I had to wake up about 5am and then take a bus and train to get to school. There was no time for breakfast. When I got there, there wasn't anything like a breakfast club or a chance for me to eat, so the next time would be at lunchtime.

"I would be falling asleep in class because I hadn't had any food and hadn't had enough sleep. Every day I was there on an empty stomach. It really affected my schoolwork because I couldn't stay awake."

It was a year before Lola was able to move to a school nearer home.

"If Magic Breakfast had been around for me then, it would have made such a difference," said Lola. "I don't want kids to go through things like that."

Magic Breakfast helps more than 200,000 children and young people every day, offering breakfasts and expert advice to tackle morning hunger in schools across England and Scotland. Its mission is to make sure no child or young person is too hungry to learn. Postcode Lottery players have to date raised more than £4 Million to fund its work.

The charity estimates in every class of 30 pupils, nine are living in poverty and in a recent study, 80% of its partner schools said they believed child hunger had increased in their school community.

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Lola said, "It's sad but there are kids who come in the morning, and they haven't eaten because there isn't food in the house. They are struggling to have three meals a day and you have children going to bed on an empty stomach. We shouldn't have that.

"If we don't do the bagels in the morning, they will have nothing. It's just the cost of things nowadays, even basic things like bread and that can only go so far for a family. If you think you have to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, it's just so expensive."

She says the support of players of People's Postcode Lottery and Magic Breakfast is making a real difference - for everyone.

"It makes the community better," said Lola. "A hungry child can be an angry child. And no one wants that."

Lola, who is mum to Samuel, 7, John, 6, and two-year-old Timothy, gets up early every morning to be at the school well before the bell rings for breakfast - but when asked if she'd like a day off or a long lie-in, her answer is an emphatic "No!"

"When I remember the kids who don't get a breakfast in the morning, who have come to school without something to eat, that's what makes me think I have to go in. I have to help them."

And her efforts haven't gone unnoticed by the children. Last year she was given a card at Christmas with the simple message: Thank you for making us bagels every morning.

Lola said, "I was so happy. I keep it by my bedside."

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Lola added, "Helping here makes me feel fulfilled. The moment I come in, something just lifts my mood - I am so happy. And it helps me through the day too."

39-year-old Katarina Whalley is another Magic Breakfast volunteer at the school.

The mum-of-two said, "Just to see the smiles on the faces is enough for me. I know that there are parents who cannot afford to give their children breakfast so it's important we are here. When they walk through the gate and they see us, they just smile. They call us the dream team!

"My dad always said to me that breakfast was the most important meal of the day and so I was lucky to grow up with that. It's so sad that the cost of living is affecting people in this way but it is good to know that we are here."

Lindsey MacDonald, Chief Executive, Magic Breakfast, said, "There's a famous proverb that says, 'It takes a village to raise a child' and reading about the work, commitment and love shown by Lola and Katarina every morning reminds me of it.

"Magic Breakfast works in schools and communities across England and Scotland because we believe that no child should be too hungry to learn. We can support many more children and families every morning thanks to the generosity of players of People's Postcode Lottery.

"The work Magic Breakfast does, the impact of the funding from People's Postcode Lottery, and the generosity of volunteers means so many more children start the school with a healthy breakfast, full tummies and ready to learn."