Every London primary school child to receive free school meals

The Mayor of London has pledged to help poor families in the capital by launching a new £130m scheme to fund free school meals for the next academic year.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has claimed his funding will fund free meals for the 270,000 state school children in the capital who are not already entitled to them – from the 270,000 an estimated 100,000 live in poverty.

Big Ben, London

The Mayor’s office said the scheme will be implemented in September and run during term time only for the length of the next academic year. Funding was made available for the project as council tax and business rates were originally higher than forecast in the mayor’s budget.

City Hall added the plans are estimated to save families £440 per child – charities and unions have welcomed the decision but claimed more work needs to be done.

According to City Hall, plans to extend free school meals to all primary school children were brought about to ‘reduce the stigma that can be associated with being singled out as low-income’. The saving of over £400 per child is based on the average cost of a hot meal of £2.30 over 190 school days.

Sadiq Khan, who received school meals himself, said: ‘The cost-of-living crisis means families and children across our city are in desperate need of additional support.

‘I have repeatedly urged the government to provide free school meals to help already stretched families, but they have failed to act.

‘The difference they can make to children who are at risk of going hungry – and to families who are struggling to make ends meet – is truly game changing.’

Announced during a visit to his old school, Fircroft Primary in Tooting, South-West London, the Mayors plans follow similar decisions by London Councils in Newham, Islington, Southwark, and Tower hamlets, who offer their own universal primary school free school meals.

Barbara Crowther from the Children’s Food Campaign said: ‘We applaud the mayor for announcing this vital nutritional safety net for every single primary school child in London for the coming academic year.

‘However, healthy school food for all must not just be an emergency measure. It should be a core part of a fully inclusive education system for the long term.’

According to the Child Poverty Action Group, around 210,000 pupils in London – across years three to 11 – live in households that rely on universal credit but miss out on free school meals and around half are expected to be covered by the Mayors scheme.

However, an estimated 700,000 children will still not receive the benefit, including 100,000 in the capitals secondary schools and 600,000 outside of the capital.

Photo by Marcin Nowak


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