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Calls to extend free school meals to all as child food poverty rises

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Free school meals should be extended to all as figures reveal 60,000 children in the capital alone are forced to rely on foodbanks.

The London Assembly has called on the mayor and chair of the London Assembly to write to the Secretary of State for Education to extend the provision of universal free school meals.

Currently, children are eligible to get free school meals if families are in receipt of benefits such as income support, child tax credit and universal credit. You can check eligibility for free school meals on the government website, which will tell you how to apply to your local authority.

Infants – those in reception, year 1 and year 2 –  also get free school meals if they’re in a government-funded school.

The call comes as a report reveals 400,000 children in London have very low ‘food security’ – defined as access to healthy, affordable and sustainable food.

More than 166,000 Londoners receive assistance from a Trussell Trust foodbank, with just under 60,000 recipients being children.

Nationwide, Trussell supplied 823,145 people with assistance between April and September last year, 301,653 of whom were children – a 23% increase on the same period in 2018.

‘Simply unacceptable’

Assembly member, Fiona Twycross, who proposed the motion, said: “Food insecurity blights the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in our capital, with many forced to go into school hungry and under-nourished. In one of the richest cities in the world, this is simply unacceptable.

“Foodbanks and other charities do an incredible job of providing emergency food parcels to those affected by food poverty, but the simple truth is they shouldn’t exist in the first place.

“Many of the solutions to tackling food insecurity lie in the hands of national government. However, City Hall should also play its role and build the case for extending the provision for universal free school meals.”

The motion will need to be agreed before it is sent to the Mayor for a response. If the Mayor agrees to write to the Secretary of State for Education, a response is expected.

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