Carmel McConnell


Can we end child hunger in the 6th richest economy?

We live in the 6th richest economy in the world, but half million children in the country go to school too hungry to learn. Providing a simple breakfast make can make an enormous difference.

Carmel’s background is a mixture of social activism and senior corporate roles. She has an MBA is in change leadership and technology, and has worked at senior levels in BT, UBS and 20th Century Fox, as well as working as growth and strategy adviser to many FTSE 100 companies.

Shocked by the numbers of children arriving at school too hungry to learn, she founded Magic Breakfast as the first stage in a global approach to give every hungry child a good breakfast as fuel for learning. The charity aims to be a catalyst, helping schools provide a healthy breakfast and parent support, as part of each school’s plan to improve child educational outcomes and health. Put simply, a hungry child cannot concentrate, and the most important lessons are taught in the morning. Magic Breakfast can provide porridge, bagels, healthy cereals and diluted fresh orange juice for just 22p per child per morning. So a Magic Breakfast is a very effective investment!

Carmel is delighted to work on the expert panel supporting the School Food Plan. She is a strong advocate for the Plan, believing it to be the best chance to improve school food for the future and, in the words of the authors “create a golden age of school food”.

Carmel was awarded the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award (New Statesman/Edge) in 2008. Magic Breakfast won the No 10 Big Society Award in 2010 and is currently the Pearson UK Employee Charity of the Year. In April 2014 Carmel was voted number 4 in the BBC Women’s Hour top 100 list of most influential “gamechangers”.

Carmel is on Twitter at @magiccarmel
For more information about Magic Breakfast, please go to

Biography Published 2015

In her talk Carmel points out that we live in the 6th richest economy and a great loving country, but we are living towards the end of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. Prices have gone up and wages down, which has led to a problem of child hunger, and this is a real problem for education.

0.5m children in the country go to school too hungry to learn. Children get a great lunch, but the most important lessons are usually in the morning.

Carmel was researching a book on change activism, during which she spoke to headteachers about inequality. They all said that they had hungry children, and across the country, 55% of teachers are bringing in food for children. She asked why the parents aren’t feeding their children… and was told the parents are hungry too. Children were late or not attending school, because they were foraging for food, and they had behavioural problems.

So she started bringing food to five schools every day. And that made a difference. Children were attending and on time. They could focus, and behaviour and social interaction improved. Carmel therefore had a hard decision… continue to advise big business on making a difference, or make a difference herself.

She chose the latter, so now Magic Breakfast is delivering breakfast to 17,000 children every day, at a cost of 22p per child per day, or £45 per year. They want to reach the 0.5m sustainably, tackle holiday hunger, and make the case for change. They are only a small team, and need to be catalytic on the ground. Ofsted is on board, as the project is driving improvements in school performance.

Carmel tells the story of Zara, who is seven. She often needed to ask for food at cafés on the way to school, but often didn’t get any. She was at risk of being excluded for being naughty and affecting the whole school. But after a bagel and a glass of milk, she was settled and the whole school was ready to learn. She visited No.10 with the school, and sat in the PM’s seat. Perhaps Zara or one of those 0.5m could be PM one day?

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