Growing calls for Free School Meals to be extended in West Midlands as new polling shows overwhelming public support

Free School Meals

NGOs, academics, councillors and health organisations call for Free School Meals to be extended in the West Midlands as new polling shows overwhelming public support

As Sadiq Khan pledges to make the universal provision of Free School Meals for all primary students in London permanent if he is re-elected as Mayor of London, the Feed the Future campaign has come to the West Midlands to draw attention to the 66,000 children(1) who are living in poverty in the West Midlands Combined Authority who currently don’t have access to Free School Meals (FSM) due to strict eligibility criteria set by national government.   

New polling(2) commissioned by The Food Foundation, who are part of the Feed the Future coalition, published today has found that:

  • 79% of people in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) support expanding Free School Meals to more children, while 73% support expanding the current scheme to all children.  
  • 64% of those surveyed agree that it is a good use of local taxpayer money to expand Free School Meal provision given the health benefits.  
  • 95% of people in WMCA agree that it is important for children to be well fed in order to do well in school. 

Ahead of the mayoral elections on May 2nd, The Food Foundation has co-ordinated letters to all mayoral candidates in the West Midlands Combined Authority signed by 60 signatories including NGOs, councillors, academics, health organisations and celebrity chefs.

Signatories include the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal Society of Public Health, Association of Directors of Public Health, National Education Union and six Birmingham councillors.

The letters call on candidates to advocate to their national party to expand provision of FSM to ensure every child receives a healthy and nutritious meal at lunchtime. 

It is unfair that all primary school children in London receive a free hot meal at lunchtime, with the same being rolled out in Scotland and Wales, while there are so many children across the rest of England who are living in poverty without getting the same level of essential support.

Outside of London, only children from households with an income below £7,400 a year (after tax, before benefits) are eligible; a threshold that has not increased since 2018.

Extending FSM would make a difference to the lives of children across the West Midlands, improving their health and bolstering their chances to succeed in school and beyond.

In April, buses have been driving around Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton with ads highlighting the number of children in the West Midlands who are living in poverty but still don’t have access to FSM. Based on an iconic political poster, the campaign is designed to hammer home the number of children being left out.

West Mids Kids asset

Members of the public are being called on to show their support for the expansion of FSM by going to the Feed the Future website 

Shona Goudie, Policy and Advocacy Manager, The Food Foundation, said: "As the Mayor of London pledges to make provision of Free School Meals permanent for all primary state pupils in London if he is re-elected, it is heartbreaking to think that there are 66,000 children in the West Midlands Combined Authority alone who are living in poverty but still don’t have access to Free School Meals.

"This simply isn’t good enough. Today the local community is taking a stand. Each and every one of these children deserves better.

"They have a right to food just like anyone else. Ahead of the election we are calling on the mayoral candidates to join us in our call to national government to expand the provision of Free School Meals."


Matthew Knight, Catering Manager, Hillstone Primary School, Birmingham, said: "The benefits of pupils having a hot nutritious meal at lunchtime are well documented.

"If students are well fed they are ready to learn, healthier and do better at school. We want this for our children and all primary school children in the West Midlands.

"As the cost of living crisis continues, we are noticing fewer children will opt for school meals if they have to pay.

"They are now bringing in lunch boxes and a school meal is seen as a luxury that many can’t afford.

"We think this is wrong and so we are calling on the politicians of the West Midlands to call on national Government to deliver the same rights that London children have and to make free school meals available for all primary children."


Kate Anstey, Head of Education Policy, Child Poverty Action Group: "We expect kids to give their all at school but restrictive FSM criteria means thousands of local children don’t have the food they need to concentrate and learn.

"We are asking Mayoral candidates to do the right thing and back free school meals for all children.

"When all kids get free lunches, children’s health and learning improve, parents have one less cost to worry about and home-school relations are bolstered because dinner-money-debt-worries are taken away.

"Hungry children need the Mayoral candidates to speak up for universal free school meals."


Paul McDonald, Chief Campaigns Officer at Health Equals: "Our childhood shapes our future health, and poverty is one of the biggest risks to children’s health.

"Free school meals will help protect children from poverty and provide them with a nutritious meal which will help them grow, learn better at school and have more opportunity to thrive.

"Providing Free School Meals is investing in our children’s future to give them every opportunity for a healthy and prosperous life."


Please contact: Juliet Grant on 07929075489 or email

Report: Free School Meals: Opportunities for the West Midlands

(1) Analysis completed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on behalf of the Food Foundation. Estimates were calculated using the methodology provided by Child Poverty Action Group. See

(2) Public First conducted an anonymous, online survey of 501 respondents in the West Midlands Combined Authority area, from 8th – 17th March 2024. The survey was weighted using Iterative Proportional Fitting, or 'Raking'. The results are weighted by age, gender, and grouped social grade to locally representative proportions. Public First is a member of the British Polling Council (BPC) and abides by its rules. For more information, please contact the Public First polling team: This polling was funded through Health Equals by The Health Foundation. The Health Foundation is an independent charitable organisation working to build a healthier UK.


Shona Goudie, Policy and Advocacy Manager, The Food Foundation

Twitter: @Food_Foundation 

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The Food Foundation is a charity working to influence food policy and business practice, shaping a sustainable food system which makes healthy diets affordable and accessible for all. We work in partnership with researchers, campaigners, community bodies, industry, investors, government and citizens to galvanise the UK’s diverse agents of change, using surprising and inventive ideas to drive fundamental shifts in our food system. These efforts are based on the continual re-evaluation of opportunities for action, building and synthesising strong evidence, convening powerful coalitions, harnessing citizens’ voices and delivering impactful communications.        
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In 2022, a new campaign - #FeedtheFuture - was launched to urgently address the issues of food insecurity for families and to tap into the economic growth opportunity. The campaign is led by a coalition of organisations including The Food Foundation, Impact on Urban Health, Bite Back 2030, School Food Matters, CPAG, Chefs in Schools, the National Education Union (NEU), Save the Children, Children’s Society, Jamie Oliver Ltd and Sustain. The coalition calling on both the Conservative and Labour parties to commit to nationally expanding the eligibility to all children

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