A Derby businesswoman is appealing to fellow companies to step up their support for an initiative whose goal is to ensure that no child in the city goes to school hungry, following one of the schools winning a national award.
Kavita Oberoi OBE instigated the Breakfast Club Scheme in 2017, working with Derby City Council, Derby County Community Trust and local businesses. It currently supports 17 schools across the city to provide funded breakfasts for vulnerable school children who would otherwise go hungry.
One of the first clubs which was set up and supported by the initiative was Firs Primary School whose pupils live in some of the most deprived areas of the city.
The schools breakfast club has just been crowned the best in the East Midlands in the annual Kellogg’s Breakfast Club Awards – winning £1,000 and a party pack for the children to celebrate in the coming months.
The club started off with just eight children and increased its numbers to 132 children. During periods of lockdown the sit-down club was adapted to the school playground where toast and fruit was served and this is now available to all 370 pupils since school restrictions have been lifted.
One of the key aims of Derby Breakfast Club is to match businesses with specific schools.
Kavita Oberoi invited Smith Partnership solicitors managing partner Kevin McGrath to Firs Primary last March to see the breakfast club in action. This led to the firm covering the breakfast costs for Fir Primary School for a whole school year.
Kavita Oberoi, who is the founder and Managing Director of Oberoi Consulting and Oberoi Business Hub in Pride Park, said that the success of the Breakfast Club and funding support from Smith Partnership would hopefully encourage other businesses to follow suit.
“I am so delighted that Firs Primary has won this accolade. It is horrifying just how many children in this day and age are still going to school hungry – making it much more difficult for them to concentrate on learning and seriously impacting their long-term futures.
“The schools involved in the Breakfast Club scheme are really making positive difference to children in some of our most deprived communities but this can only be achieved with the support of local businesses.
“As we move out of lockdown, the situation is likely to be even worse due to the crippling effect of the pandemic on many families’ finances.”
Firs Breakfast Club organiser Linda Talbot explained: “We were over the moon to be recognised by the Kellogg’s Breakfast Club Awards. We plan to use the prize money to provide a greater range of breakfast options and look forward to celebrating the award with the whole school community.”
Headteacher Paula Martin added: “In the past, the awards have often gone to those who provide pre-school childcare which also includes breakfast.
“However, our focus has always been on ensuring that our children start the school day with breakfast inside them so that they are ready to engage in learning and to provide this free of charge so that it benefits everyone – even our most vulnerable of families.
“This has particularly been a lifeline for many children during the pandemic and we are determined that it will be available for every child as the whole school opens back up again.”
Kavita Oberoi continued: “Marcus Rashford has done a great deal to raise awareness of child food poverty and, by supporting the initiative the local businesses can ensure that their support makes a real difference to children in our local communities.
“Providing school children with a healthy breakfast every day has been linked with higher attainment, more focus and a better overall educational experience. Feeding one school pupil for the year costs just £15 or businesses can support an entire club at school as Smith Partnership have done.”
Smith Partnership managing partner Kevin McGrath concluded: “As a business with our roots firmly embedded in Derby, we are proud to be part of the Derby Breakfast Club initiative and to be able to offer help to support the children at Firs Primary School.
“Since joining the initiative, we have extended our help for Firs Estate and are committed to further supporting the city-based school.”