We Say Yes to ending means-testing of school meals by 2030 as part of a modern, inclusive education system, with a fully universal school food offer from nursery to sixth form college.
We call on all political parties to unite in a joint vision to progressively achieve universal school meals across the UK by no later than 2030, and to state this in their General Election manifestos.
Why is this important?
We know that good nutrition is an essential part of children being able to learn, concentrate and succeed. Evidence shows that when children are provided with school meals, it improves overall health and educational outcomes. However, provision of school meals is becoming a postcode lottery across the UK, with millions of children excluded from a healthy, hot meal each day.
Who already receives free school meals?
- In England, universal school meals are provided to all infants in reception, Years 1 and 2. But the £7,400 family earnings threshold (after tax, before benefits, under Universal Credit for nursery children and those Year 3 and upwards) is leaving 800,000 children living in poverty without a meal.
- Five London boroughs currently provide universal meals to all primary pupils. The Mayor of London has committed emergency funding for meals in all London primary schools for the 2023/24 academic year.
- In Scotland, the government has committed to make school meals free for every primary school child, and this is already happening for children in Years P1-5 and will be further extended this year. It has also promised to pilot universal meals in secondary schools.
- In Wales, the government has also committed to make free school meals available to all primary school children over the next 3 years, starting with infants during 2022-23. The £7,400 income threshold will still apply to secondary school pupils.
- In Northern Ireland, there are no universal school meals. The family earnings threshold for eligibility for free school meals is £14,000 (after tax, before benefits).
Just like school chairs, books, desks and bathrooms, all children should be able to access school meals equally without discrimination or means-testing. Neither our hospitals nor our prisons apply means-testing to food, so it’s time to end it in schools.
What are the costs?
Research has found that funding school food for all would cost £1.8 billion a year and additional off infrastructure support costs to cover kitchen upgrades and staffing. However recent analysis shows that for every £1 invested in providing meals, £1.71 would be generated in core benefits. This includes cost savings for families, schools and the NHS, and improved health and education outcomes. This could yield an estimated £41.3 billion in core education and health benefits from 2025-45, and a total of almost £100 billion if wider economic benefits are factored in. Nutritious school food for all is an investment in the future health and prosperity of our nation.
That’s why we support a vision in which all children at school should be provided with healthy, sustainably sourced, tasty meals that meet their dietary needs and support their learning, without the stigma of means-testing.
Statement of support for Local Authorities
As a local council we SAY YES to School Food For All and commit to taking action in one or more of the following areas:
- Write on behalf of the Council to the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer in support of a progressive roll out towards universal provision of school meals to all children in UK schools, and the case for investing in food to support our children’s overall education, health and wellbeing.
- Support measures to encourage uptake of Free School Meals for those already eligible but not taking up their entitlement.
- Use available budgets and additional resources via HAF, National School Breakfast Programme, Household Support Funds and other means to extend access to healthy and nutritious food during term time and holidays in response to local needs.
- Explore further innovative local solutions to expanding healthy school meals to those not currently eligible e.g. via research and feasibility studies, pilot expansion programmes, public consultations, sustainable or dynamic procurement options.
- Support and champion activities to encourage members of our local community to participate in campaigns for school food for all, both locally and nationally.
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