News Children's Food Campaign

London Assembly calls for "long term settlement for universal school meals"

Sustain welcomes the new report on Child Poverty and Free School Meals from the London Assembly Economy Committee, which backs measures to expand living wages, provide cost-of-living support to families on low incomes, and lobby for long term access to universal healthy school meals for the capital's school children. 

Primary school students eating school meals. Credit: Monkey Business Images

Primary school students eating school meals. Credit: Monkey Business Images

The London Assembly's Economy Committee report provides 9 key recommendations for the Mayor's programme to address child poverty in the capital, including calling on the Mayor to convene the public and voluntary sector in a new child poverty strategy for 2024/25.

The report calls on the Mayor to work with employers to implement the London Living Wage, and also to keep advocating to the Government to remove the two-child benefit cap. 

The Committee also scrutinised the introduction of free lunches for all London schoolchildren in state maintained primary schools, funded by the Mayor of London for 2023-24, and now extended for a second academic year.

Overall the report concludes that the school meals programme has been well received by schools and parents in London, and makes four further recommendations to strengthen the programme and build on progress to date:

  • continue to provide additional capital funding to support infrastructural costs for schools to be able to deliver healthy school meals at scale
  • support local authorities and schools to maintain pupil premium funding by using the Mayor's convening power to implement opt-out automated registration for free school meals - both in primary and secondary schools, so that all eligible children are able to receive free meals
  • ensure early insights and learning from the evaluation process are shared by the Mayor in his response to the Committee's report
  • use evidence from the implementation of universal meals in London primary schools to lobby the Government for long term funding.

In her introduction to the report, Committee Chair Marina Ahmad AM says:

"London needs a long-term funding settlement for universal free school meals to ensure that every child has a hot, nutritious meal every day at school, regardless of their family circumstances. This is essential for addressing the scourge of child poverty in London."

The Children's Food Campaign was pleased to contribute to one of the Committee's oral evidence sessions. Responding to the report, Children's Food Campaign Manager Barbara Crowther, has said: 

"We welcome these recommendations from the Economy Committee, which recognise that poverty needs to be addressed in terms of access to living wages and adequate benefits, and healthy school meals can play a broader catalytic role in supporting all London children to learn, achieve and access good nutrition together, without stigma.

We're pleased that the Mayor has already announced that funding will continue for a second year, which gives councils, schools and caterers much more ability to plan ahead - from the kitchen workforce to the dining facilities and also ensuring procurement of healthy and sustainable food. The Committee recognises the importance of London delivering school food well, and showing the value and benefit it can bring not just to families in London, but in providing evidence to influence national government policy."

Read the full London Assembly report on Child Poverty and Free School Meals


Published Tuesday 12 March 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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