Our reaction as Free School Meals rolled out across London

Free School Meals

The Food Foundation has backed plans by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to extend Free School Meals to all primary school children in the capital.

The emergency measure, which been introduced to help families struggling with the cost of living crisis, applies to the 2023/2024 academic year. 

Costing £130 million, it will help an additional 287,000 primary school children in London. 

The decision shows the importance of our Feed the Future campaign, which we lead in partnership with seven other organisations, calling on central government to provide Free School Meals for the 800,000 children across England living in poverty, who are still not eligible.

Universal Free School Meal entitlement at primary level is being rolled out in Scotland and Wales following commitments from the devolved governments, but in England the national eligibility threshold remains set at a household income of below £,7,400 (after tax, excluding benefits).

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation, said: "We welcome the timely and decisive leadership shown by Labour’s London Mayor to protect families from the soaring cost of living.  

"This initiative at last recognises the crucial importance of Free School Meals in safeguarding children’s diets, health and learning. 

"It is a huge step forward for our Feed the Future campaign calling on policy leaders to extend Free School Meals to more children, which has received huge cross-party and public support. 

"Struggling families across the capital will be breathing a huge sigh of relief thanks to today’s news, knowing that their children will be guaranteed a hot nutritious school meal every day, regardless of their background.  

"However, we mustn’t forget the hundreds of thousands of children outside the capital who are living below the poverty line but don’t qualify for the Free School Meals.

"Without action from central Government, there remains an unjust postcode lottery when it comes to Free School Meal access. Government now has the opportunity to deliver on its levelling up promises by addressing the inequalities inherent in our Free School Meal system.  

"We need funding it the next budget that levels the playing field, so at the very least all children living in poverty across England are guaranteed a daily nutritious meal at school – not just as an emergency one-year measure but as an integral long-term provision in our state school system."

During an interview on Radio 4's Today Programme, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the issue of Free School Meals was personal to him, having benefitted from them when he was a child.

News of access to Free School Meals being extended in London was welcomed by prominent businessman and National Food Strategy author Henry Dimbleby who said it should make the case for rolling out the scheme across England "irrefutable".

Please add your voice to our #FeedtheFuture campaign and use our template to write to your MP so we can help the 800,000 children living in poverty in England who are currently missing out on what is a vital nutritional safety net for families struggling with the cost of living crisis.

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How to support the campaign 

We've drafted a message you can email your MP, quickly and easily. The more politicians hear from the people they represent, the more likely they are to act to #FeedtheFuture

We've also created a How to Support the Campaign document to help as many people as possible get involved and share our campaign graphics on social media.

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