In this briefing we argue why in order to respect all children's right to food, the Government should extend the Universal Free School Meal entitlement past the current period.
Many children, despite living in poverty, are not eligible to receive free school meals after the universal entitlement period either due to their families immigration status or due to recent changes to eligibility requirements linked to Universal Credit. This leads to many children whose families stuggle to afford to pay for school meals having to skip lunch.
Hunger in childhood, even short term, cannot just be seen as a deficit in calorie and/or nutrient intake. Hunger has well documented consequences on a child’s educational outcomes, as well as their short-term and long-term mental and physical health.
By providing universal free school meals the Government would not just be ensuring that all children receieve at least one meal a day that follows mandatory school food standards, they would also be reducing the stigma faced by children whose families are living in poverty.
Securing the right to food into domestic legislation is the preferred way to ensuring that children have their right to food respected and are able to access food in a dignified and reliable way.
For children school food is a key instrument to achieve their right to food. But of course the right to food is more than just the right to be fed. It is about ensuring that all people regardless of their gender, race, immigration status, or age are able to access food in a dignified way.
This will look differently for different people, but it will be underpinned by a work and welfare system that provides adequate incomes.
Working with the Devolved Administrations the UK Government should:
1. Extend the universal provision of free school meals to ensure that no child goes hungry during the school day.
2. Expand the School Fruit and Vegetable scheme to all children in primary school and countries in the UK paid for by ring-fencing some of the funds from the Sugary Drinks Industry Levy with a percentage of produce to be UK grown, seasonal and agro-ecologically produced (e.g. organic).
3. Incorporate the right to food into domestic legislation in order to ensure that a framework is in place to reduce household food insecurity in a systematic way, as well as ensure that children have access to a nutritious and sustainable diet, including through school food.
Right to Food
In this joint briefing with Project 17, we look at how immigration policy affects children's access to free school meals.
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