Children's Food campaigners have welcomed news that the Mayor of London will extend primary school meals for primary children for a further year, until July 2025.
Since September 2023, the Mayor of London's funding for universal primary school meal provision has seen up to 287,000 school children across London receiving a nutritious, healthy school meal. It has already supported provision of 17 million meals during the first term.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan says:
“Delivering free school meals has been one of my proudest moments as Mayor as I have seen the difference it has made to the children receiving them and to their families. I am thrilled to announce my intention to extend this lifeline for families for yet another year.
“I know from personal experience what a difference these meals can make and it’s been fantastic to hear from teachers how much better children are performing and also how much parents and their children have benefited, with parents not having to worry about how to provide their children with a healthy, nutritious meal during the school day. Sadly Londoners continue to struggle with the cost-of-living crisis and with the Government failing to step forward to deliver these meals, we have worked hard to find the money to provide this vital funding for the next academic year.
“I will continue to do all I can to help families cope with the cost-of-living crisis as we build a fairer and more prosperous London for all.”
The Children's Food Campaign is thrilled to hear this funding has been extended for another academic year, until July 2025, providing more stability for London's schools and councils to plan for the future.
Barbara Crowther, Children's Food Campaign Manager said:
"This is very happy news to start the new year! A hot nutritious lunch at school is a healthy investment in children’s learning and development, and providing food to all pupils equally makes for more inclusive, effective and harmonious classrooms. We applaud the Mayor for extending primary meals funding for another academic year, building on the excellent foundations that have been laid by London’s primary schools and councils in recent months."
Three London boroughs that were already providing universal primary school meals have been redirecting funding to drive other school food initiatives, with Southwark expanding meal entitlement to secondary pupils from households on Universal Credit, Westminster providing meals for all pupils in nurseries and Key Stage 3, and Tower Hamlets introducing universal secondary meals. Several other London councils have also been topping up the funding per meal provided by the Mayor, and providing additional infrastructural support. Scotland and Wales are also actively working towards providing free primary school meals for all children.
However, there is still a postcode lottery on school food with many children still missing out on a decent, hot and nutrious school meal, in the rest of the country as well as in our secondary schools. Barbara Crowther continued:
“Whilst this is brilliant news for London’s primary school children and their families, there is still an appalling failure to bring national school meals policy up to date with the realities of 2024. We call on politicians from all parties to step into the policy vacuum and set out plans to expand healthy school food progressively to children of all ages across the UK.”
A report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the National Education Union has shown that providing all children free school meals has a wide range of benefits. It improves financial and psychological security for parents as they don’t have to worry about the cost of food at school, improves nutrition and school engagement with improved concentration and engagement from pupils, and reduces stigma for children who would ordinarily get means-tested meals. It also improves relationships between families and schools as there is no need to collect lunch money or administer debt, changes eating habits as pupils try new foods and helps create a richer school life, with families able to invest in extra-curricular activities.
Nikita Sinclair, Head of Children’s Health and Food Programme, Impact on Urban Health, said:
“It’s fantastic that this policy has been extended for another academic year. Free school meals remain a key way to ensure all children receive the nutrition they need to learn and thrive in school, and to support households under financial pressure. Children across the country deserve the same chance – national government needs to follow suit and urgently expand entitlement to free school meals.”
Sustain's Say Yes campaign calls on the Government to extend school food for all and invest in their future, to ensure every child across the UK has the same chance to thrive. If you agree, do please add yourself to the Say Yes to School Food for All campaign map!
For information on the benefits, please see the Superpowers of Free School Meals evidence pack.
For more information on the Mayor of London's policy on universal free school meals in primary schools, please visit here.
Published Tuesday 9 January 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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