Fighting the hunger of Manchester’s children

Every morning in Manchester, the 1833 Saint Vincent de Paul Society, or the SVP, runs a breakfast club in a local school. The SVP is a longstanding charitable arm of the Catholic Chaplaincy on Oxford Road. Their outreach work with the homeless of Manchester was, in fact, the catalyst for starting the first student-led foodbank in the country.

“Just over a year ago, we had a discussion about the work that we do within the SVP,” says Jenny Hodge, President of the 1833 SVP Society. “We talked about our work with the homeless and the elderly and realised there was one group of people we hadn’t done any work with – children. We saw an opportunity in an existing link between our chaplaincy and a local primary school in a deprived part of Manchester. We contacted the head teacher and asked if we could help with anything. She was delighted and told us about the breakfast club they had set up in the school."

In a recent report entitled Hard to Swallow - the facts about food poverty, Kelloggs found that four out of five teachers say they have children in their classes who come to school hungry. “Missing breakfast can impact on children in a range of ways,” says the report, “from not performing to their full potential at school, to not getting the vitamins, minerals and fibre that are essential for healthy growth”,  thereby contributing to a perpetuation of poverty.

Volunteers

Manchester schools used to charge families 30p to provide a pupil with breakfast. Once the SVP got involved, the number of children eating breakfast before school increased substantially, meaning they not only started their lessons on a full stomach, but they also required more supervision, something the volunteer students from the Catholic Chaplaincy have been happy to provide.

“Our presence at the breakfast club is not just to make sure the children are behaving themselves,” explains Jenny. “The way we look at it is that we’re being a ‘buddy’ to them. The children at the school are often from large and chaotic families and in this way, we try our best to pay them attention and to show that we are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Although I personally was initially a bit scared by this fact, we are also acting as role models for the children. One child once said to me: ‘One day, I want to be in university, just like you!’ This had a great effect on me and made me realise that what we do is of great importance to the children at the school and is so much more than just giving them two slices of toast!”

The SVP 1833 runs a number of projects across Manchester and meets every Monday evening at 7pm during University term time at the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy, Oxford Road. Find out more on facebook or on the SVP 1833 blogpost

Photo: Kelloggs/Manchester Evening News