A teenager has told how food donations from The Felix Project helped set her back on track after a crisis of bullying and bad behaviour.
Georgina had previously been coming to school hungry or late, with unhealthy food she picked up on the way.
The 14-year-old, who lives in a small, terraced council house in Northolt, had been struggling at a large mainstream school with more than 2,000 students. “I’d bunk my lessons, throw things, bump the lunch queue – I was just naughty,” she said.
She was also being bullied. “My mum didn’t like seeing me coming home from school. She’d ask, ‘Georgina, how was your day?’ and I’d be like, ‘Yeah it was fine’ – but I’d say that not to make her upset,” she explained.
Her behaviour came to a head during a fire drill when she locked a teacher in a classroom. “That’s when I said, ‘OK, I need to stop and leave the school now before there’s a real fire and she actually does get hurt,’” she explained.
In May 2016, Georgina transferred to the Red Balloon Learner Centre in Harrow, a facility with 20 students unable to attend mainstream schools. It caters to pupils from difficult backgrounds including bullying, abuse, domestic violence and foster care.
Located in an unassuming house rather than a traditional larger school building, Red Balloon doesn’t look like a school from the outside – a change in environment that can radically change a child’s education.
She now knows that part of her problem was that she was too often not getting enough food – and when she was it was often the wrong kind she was eating.
“I used to go to McDonald’s a lot, and I’d come into school with a milkshake or pancakes. I’d be really hyper because of all the sugar,” she said.
Scientific studies have found that if a child like Georgina arrives at school hungry, they lose one hour of learning time a day as a result of being distracted. This diminishes their school results, impacting on their chances for a good future.
In April, Red Balloon began receiving food deliveries from The Felix Project. It allows the school to give students breakfast and provides fresh fruit and vegetables to be cooked up in healthy lunches.
Deputy headteacher Cathy Taylor said she was all too familiar with the problem of kids not having breakfast or having no food in their cupboards at home.
She said: “Their parents will work really long hours. They try to find themselves something to eat. Often the cooked meal at Red Balloon is the only meal they will have all day other than Supernoodles or a packet of crisps.” One child hadn’t even heard of raspberries.
The school is vegetarian and picks healthy produce to feed the kids. “One bit of toast can make such a difference. It’s sad that something so small can have such a big impact,” she said.
Georgina is pleased other children are being given the same help she was, through The Independent’s Christmas appeal.
As a result of the support she received at Red Balloon and from The Felix Project, her behaviour has improved, she loves going to school and she feels that she is back on track. She said: “I’ll concentrate and do good work, achieve everything I want to achieve, and I’ll feel refreshed as well – ready to start the day.”
Here are the ways you can donate to our Christmas appeal:
Call – Freephone – 08000 639 281
Text – FELIX £5 to 70700
Post – Freepost – HELP A HUNGRY CHILD
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