A new national campaign Say ‘Yes!’ to free school meals for all, aims to unite the nation behind a vision of ending means testing of children in school for food. It is being launched on International School Meals Day with the premiere of a short film starring children of Sacred Heart RC Primary School, Battersea. In addition to the young stars, attendees will hear from local MP Marsha de Cordova and other leaders.
London, Scotland and Wales are all currently rolling out universal free school meals in primary schools during 2023-24. The evidence shows that the best health, educational and economic impact school meals can have is when they are provided universally. This is why we are asking people across the UK to call for equity in provision from the government.
We are asking citizens from across the nation to pledge their support for expanding quality school meals across the whole country by 2030: free of charge, free of stigma. A brand new interactive map at www.schoolfoodforall.org will invite individuals, organisations, councils, MPs and businesses to show their support and Say Yes. This is in the face of a government failing to act despite massive public support.
You can find more information and evidence about the many benefits of free school meals here
Jared Brading, Executive Headteacher, Federation of Sacred Heart & St Mary’s RC Primary Schools, Battersea, LB Wandsworth said:
“Hot, healthy school meals are so important to children and their families. We see the results of a quality lunch in the classroom: better fed children become better performing pupils. After the brilliant news that the Mayor of London will fund school meals for all children in London primary schools, it would be great to see this vital support extended further. This is why the children of Sacred Heart have starred in this film, because here we say ‘yes’ to free school meals for all.”
Barbara Crowther, Children’s Food Campaign Co-ordinator at Sustain, said:
“Children have to be in school all day, for 190 days a year, and we know nutrition is as essential for good learning and concentration as providing books, desks and chairs. So why do we insist on means testing children before offering food in school? We don’t impose means testing on meals for patients in hospital, or even prisoners in prison. But we do this to our children. It’s time to unite behind a fully inclusive, modern education system, similar to a growing number of countries around the world that now provide school food for all, regardless of background, as an investment in the health, attainment and future prosperity of the nation.”
Stephanie Slater, Founder/ Chief Executive of School Food Matters, said:
“Too many children are missing out on the nutrition they need to thrive. Quality school food has so many benefits. It boosts children’s health and attainment, it gives confidence to parents, who know that their children are well-nourished and ready to learn, and it supports the local economy offering employment opportunities and a market for local producers. It makes no sense to us to means test children for food in school: we do not talk about ‘free school teachers’ or ‘free school footballs’! It’s time to say ‘yes’ to free school meals for all.”
The introduction of universal free school meals is the leading ask of the School Food Review Working Group.
Research by Child Poverty Action Group revealed that one in three children living in poverty in England are currently not eligible for a free school meal. This is because of the government’s draconian eligibility criteria, which require families to be in receipt of universal credit and have a total household income below £7,400 per year.
Local authorities in the London Boroughs of Islington, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Westminster already fund school meals for all their primary school pupils. Tower Hamlets is going even further and planning free secondary school meals from this September, an initiative already piloted in Hammersmith and Fulham.