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Plans for free school meals axed for working low income families

Secretary of State Michael Gove announced yesterday in a letter to Ed Balls that plans have been dropped to offer free school meals to primary aged school children in working families on a household income of £16,190 or less.

Children’s Food Campaign coordinator Christine Haigh said, “We are appalled that, after only a few weeks, government’s promises to protect the poorest from public spending cuts are already being abandoned.   It is unbelievable that you can be living under the poverty line yet not entitled to free school meals.  Losing entitlement to free school meals, as well as affecting children, represents a significant disincentive to returning to work.


For further information and interviews, please contact Jackie Schneider/Christine Haigh on 020 7065 0902 or 07795 213425 (Jackie) / 07870 577934 (Christine) or /


Notes to editors:

  1. The Children's Food Campaign wants to improve children's health and well-being through better food - and food teaching - in schools, and protecting children from junk food marketing. We are supported by over 300 organisations and 12,000 members of the public. The Children's Food Campaign is coordinated by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming and funded by the British Heart Foundation.
  2. The letter from Michael Gove to Ed Balls can be viewed here:
  3. Free school meals are currently only available to families receiving out of work benefits, meaning that a major extra cost of around £300 per year per child hits families when they are trying to make themselves better off through work.  The previous government announced a scheme to extend entitlement to around 500,000 families in work on low pay from September this year.
  4. The poverty line for a couple with two children (before housing costs and net of taxes) is £374 a week, or £19,500 a year (See HBAI table 2.3 from DWP:
  5. The average cost of a primary school lunch is £1.66 a day, or £290 per year according to the (School Food Trust: