How Midland Langar Seva Society’s Breakfast Clubs are helping to shape the futures of local children
Sharing in the community is something deeply engrained into Sikh values, and it’s at the heart of the work being done by Midland Langar Seva Society (MLSS). The charity’s selfless dedication to helping others earned founder Randhir Singh Heer a Pride of Birmingham TSB Community Partner Award this year.
The Breakfast Club is a new initiative from MLSS which aims to ensure that local children start the day with a breakfast. It follows on from the charity’s great work serving meals to local homeless people – something Randhir and co-founder Parmjit Singh Bahyia still do every night of the week with the help of volunteers.
“The conversation started about a year and a half ago,” explains Parmjit. “We learned that many children weren’t getting any breakfast, and we wanted to do something to change that.
“So we got in touch with the schools and presented the idea of Breakfast Clubs, using food that we supply, to see if it’s something they would be interested in – and they were. Our only condition was that families wouldn’t be charged.”
The concept is simple. Bread, milk and margarine are donated by local businesses and delivered to Parmjit two mornings a week. He then distributes it between five different schools at about 7.30am, before heading to work. The schools are then in a position to offer every child toast for breakfast, free of charge.
“There are all kinds of reasons why children may come to school in the morning not having had breakfast,” says Marie Wilkes, Nursery Manager at Rowley Robins Nursery. “Breakfast Club means we can feed all 52 children who attend in the morning. The children sit on the carpet and eat the toast together, so it’s a social occasion as well.”
Marie has noticed a big difference in the children’s behaviour. “If your tummy is rumbling, all you can think about is that you’re hungry, and that makes children restless. You can’t learn like that.”
Stephen Prichard-Jones, Head Teacher at The Shepwell School, agrees. “We’ve found that the first few lessons of the day have been more active and more productive than before,” he says.
The Shepwell School is a specialist centre for pupils unable to attend their mainstream school on medical, social or emotional grounds, so the social aspect of a shared breakfast is especially beneficial.
“The majority of our pupils come here from different schools and they don’t know anyone,” explains Stephen. “One of the things we do here is try to build up resilience.
“These breakfasts are one way of doing that. Pupils are in the hall eating together, talking to each other, sometimes playing games. It’s great.”
Andy Nicholls, Head Teacher at Moorcroft Wood Primary School, feels strongly that we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of a seemingly simple breakfast.
“This school was recently ranked as one of the top three schools in England for the progress our children make. Walsall is one of the most deprived local authorities in the country, with 97 to 98 per cent of our families in the lowest 20 per cent of households in the UK, so this is a massive achievement.
“I’ve no doubt that the fact that our children aren’t hungry makes a huge difference.”
All the schools involved have received positive feedback from grateful parents, too.
“Can you imagine the worry from a parent who has had to send their child to school hungry? It must be horrendous,” says Andy. “Knowing that their child will be fed relieves a huge amount of angst for them.”
And it doesn’t stop there. The sociological benefits to the local community have been recognised by Andy, whose pupils are predominantly white British.
“I think it’s important for them to see people from a different culture, a different society, who are supporting their children,” he says.
Randhir and Parmjit’s generosity has inspired others to help where they can, including Andy and some of his staff, who have put themselves forward to volunteer at the evening homeless feeds.
Breakfast Clubs are an achievement on a bigger scale than Randhir and Parmjit’s humble and unassuming nature allows them to take credit for.
“These guys make a huge difference and sometimes they don’t even realise it,” Andy points out. “It’s so much more than a few loaves of bread. What they’re actually delivering is a bit of hope. They’re delivering relief for some people. And long term, they’re delivering kids’ futures.
“It’s the little things that make the big things, which makes a massive impact.”
Discover what inspired Randhir to help in his community here