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Free school meals for all in London’s state primary schools thanks to new funding from Mayor

Up to 287,000 state primary school children across London are now benefitting from free school meals thanks to unprecedented £135m emergency funding from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

. Credit: Mayor of London

. Credit: Mayor of London

For the first time ever free school meals are available to all pupils in every year of state-funded primary schools, special schools and pupil referral units for this academic year in London. Families in every borough in the capital could save upwards of £440 per child across the next year, after the Mayor introduced the historic one-off funding to help Londoners struggling with the cost of living.

Children in years 3 to 6 in primary school years had previously only received free school meals if they lived in households on universal credit earning less than £7,400 a year - after tax and not including benefits, and regardless of the number of children in the family.

Sadiq – who received means tested free school meals as a child – has taken the action to support families as he is determined to do all he can to help Londoners hit by the cost-of-living crisis.

It comes as latest City Hall polling from YouGov Plc reveals that around a third (32 per cent) of parents and guardians of children between five and 11 years say they are ‘financially struggling’, including around one in six (16 per cent) going without basic needs or relying on debt to pay for them. In a separate question, around a third (31 per cent) say they are buying less food and essentials.

Every borough in the capital has received £2.65 per meal in funding to enable schools to deliver the meals over the next year. This is higher than the amount they receive from Government, who recently increased its funding from £2.41 to £2.53 per meal following the Mayor’s unprecedented intervention.

To further support schools, boroughs have been provided with a wide range of advice on best practice including how to encourage all parents to continue to register for the Government Free School Meal scheme – this ensures schools continue to receive the maximum additional Pupil Premium funding from Government, which is linked to Government Free School Meal take up.

Sadiq’s free school meals funding is the latest programme from the Mayor to support Londoners with the cost-of-living crisis. That includes investing £3.46bn into building the genuinely affordable homes Londoners need and £400m on skills and employment programmes to support Londoners to find more secure work, as well as more than £80m to help those struggling with the rising cost of living to tackle fuel poverty, supporting private renters, connecting Londoners to welfare advice and tackling food insecurity. The Mayor has also provided an emergency funding package of more than £3.5m to help provide around 10m free meals during school holidays and at weekends to low-income Londoners struggling with the spiralling cost of living over the next year.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

“I know from personal experience what a lifeline free school meals can be and I’m immensely proud that our unprecedented funding means that hundreds of thousands of children across London’s primary schools are now benefitting from them. As the new academic year begins, for the first time ever all children at state primary schools in every borough will be enjoying a free lunch at school every day – helping families struggling with the cost-of-living and ensuring children don’t go hungry. It is shocking that families across the capital are struggling to feed themselves as they try to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, and I will continue to do all I can to support Londoners as we build a better and more prosperous city for all.”

Chef Jamie Oliver MBE said:

“Nourishing our kids with nutritious and delicious food at lunch time is an investment in their future, boosts our economy and sets them up for a healthier and more productive life. Sadiq Khan has recognised this by giving all primary school children a free school meal and now we need politicians across all parties to put child health above politics and act now.”

Barbara Crowther, Children’s Food Campaign Manager, Sustain, said:

“This is a truly historic moment for London. It’s brilliant that every primary schoolchild in a London state school is now on an equal footing at lunchtime, with healthy, hot meals available to all, regardless of background or family income and means testing. This is how it should be, not just in London but across the whole of our education system – good nutritious meals are the building blocks of more better energy levels and concentration, improved educational outcomes and a healthier future for children. We applaud the Mayor of London for saying yes to school food for all primary children, plus all the school staff and caterers working incredibly hard and creatively to turn that vision into healthy food on the table. Now we need all political parties to agree that this is the right and fair thing to do across the whole nation, to end the school meal postcode lottery and instead feed the future.”

Raheem Morgan, Chartwells chef at Torridon Primary School, Lewisham, – and the current LACA School Chef of the Year – said:

“I’m super excited to be able to serve every child a healthy, nutritious and delicious lunch for free this Academic Year. The initiative will have a real impact on our ability to fuel children’s learning in Lewisham. The taste, nutrition and choice of school meals for all children, irrespective of their allergens or dietary requirements, has improved greatly over recent years. I’m incredibly proud to be part of the amazing team of frontline colleagues who proudly serve pupils every day, and I can’t wait for term to start.”

Published Tuesday 5 September 2023

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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Tuesday 5 September 2023 | Visit

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