News Children's Food Campaign

London mayoral candidates pledge more free school meals

Sadiq Khan has committed to make primary school meals free for all pupils, if re-elected as London mayor. Children's Food Campaign responds.

Serving up healthy school meals. Copyright: © 2023. Provided by Impact on Urban Health licensed via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

Serving up healthy school meals. Copyright: © 2023. Provided by Impact on Urban Health licensed via a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced his intention to a permanent commitment to free school meals for all London primary schoolchildren if he is re-elected on 2 May. 

His announcement builds on the existing primary school meals funding launched in September 2023 and already expanded for the 2024/25 academic year, and will secure meals funding for the full four years of the next Mayoral term. 

In unveiling his manifesto pledge, Sadiq Khan says:

“Free school meals have proved a lifeline during the worst decline in living standards on record. But they do much more besides. That meal can be the difference between a child realising their potential and falling short of it. That meal removes the shame of not having enough money to eat. That meal makes children feel equal."

Responding to the news, Children's Food Campaign Manager Barbara Crowther says:

"This is fantastic news for London's primary school children and their families. It would give schools and their caterers the ability to plan on a multi-year basis to ensure they are delivering healthy and nutritious lunches, and support children's overall food education. We also want them to be sourced as much as possible from sustainable, local and British producers, and be a total economic benefit.

"However, this cannot just be for London's primary school children, when older children and millions in the rest of the country are not accessing the healthy food that would fuel their academic learning and overall health. Mayors and councils in other areas do not have the level of funding of a London mayor, and school meals are primarily the responsibility of the Department for Education. We have to take this campaign into national policy, and call on all political parties to step up in the manifestos for the General Election later this year."

Green Party mayoral candidate for London Zoe Garbett has also committed not just to continue to provide primary school meals, but also to take the programme further into secondary schools. Currently three London boroughs operate expanded secondary school meal programmes - Tower Hamlets is providing universal school meals in secondary schools, whilst Westminster is providing meals to all pupils in Key Stage 3 and Southwark is providing targetted free school meals to pupils from low income families receiving Universal Credit or equivalent benefits.  

Conservative candidate Susan Hall said in her campaign to become the mayoral candidate that she would continue the universal primary meals programme 'if necessary' for 2024/25, but has subsequently criticised the initiative for paying for meals for "millionaire's children". In a TV hustings on ITV she said she believes "that money could be targeted at the kids who really need that, far better than a blanket [scheme] for everybody.” It is not clear what type of targetted approach is proposed instead.

The Children's Food Campaign is calling for a stage-by-stage roll out towards a vision of universal healthy school meals for all children, from nursery to sixth form/college, in our campaign Say Yes to School Food For All, backed by over 40 national organisations and supported by individuals, groups and councils in 1200 locations across the UK. 

Published Thursday 18 April 2024

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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