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All primary school children in London to get free school meals

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The Mayor of London has announced that all primary school pupils in the capital will get free school meals in the 2023/24 academic year.

Sadiq Khan’s proposal will provide a one-off £130m to help about 270,000 primary school children and save families in London around £440 per child across the year.

The Mayor says he is stepping in to support families struggling with the spiralling cost of living.

Khan has repeatedly called on the government to make the meals available to all children, as research has shown that hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren live in poverty but don’t receive free school meals due to the government’s restrictive eligibility criteria and lack of universal provision.

Currently a household on Universal Credit must earn less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including benefits), regardless of the number of children in the family, to be eligible. This means that many children from working families in poverty aren’t entitled to free school meals.

The Mayor has now proposed a plan to make the meals available – on a universal basis – to all of the capital’s primary schoolchildren for one full school year.

Khan said that as well as saving families hundreds of pounds per child, making free school meals available to all will help reduce the stigma that can be associated with being singled out as low income.

Children have gone without food

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, 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 simply failed to act.

“This is why I’m stepping forward with an emergency £130m scheme that will ensure every single primary pupil in the capital receives free school meals. This will save families hundreds of pounds over the year, ensuring parents aren’t worrying about how they’re going to feed their children. It will also guarantee every primary school student a healthy, nutritious meal – meaning they don’t go hungry in the classroom and can better concentrate on their studies.

Victoria Benson, chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread, said: “The cost-of-living crisis has been brutal for single parents and has meant that children have gone without basic essentials because household budgets have been stretched beyond breaking point.

“We have heard from so many single parents that they have simply been unable to afford the huge price increases which we have seen over the past year with the result that many of them, or their children, have had to go without food. It will be a huge relief to many parents that their child will now be fed at school and we welcome the Mayor’s free school meals initiative and hope it will mean fewer children in London will experience hunger.”

The Food Foundation has called for the scheme to be extended across the country, while the Children’s Food Campaign has called for the scheme to be permanent, rather than running for just one year.