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Say Yes to School Food For All

New campaign highlights public support for expansion of free school meals

Will you join the campaign and Say Yes to school food for all?

Can you imagine a school day with no books or desks? We can’t! Just like chairs, desks and bathrooms, we should give school food to every child. That’s why Hull Food Partnership has joined the Children’s Food Campaign and others to “Say Yes to School Food For All”, calling for universal free school meals from nursery to sixth form by 2030.

The new campaign highlights the breadth of public support in the UK for universal school food provision thanks to an interactive map launched on International School Meals Day, (9th March). A short film set at a local London school has also been released as part of the campaign as members of the public are invited to join in and add their name to the map.

We’re supporting this campaign, coordinated by the Children’s Food Campaign and supported by National Food Strategy author Henry Dimbleby and a number of organisations such as trade unions, charities, local authorities and more. The diverse and rapidly growing support for the idea of universal school meals across the UK will be evidenced by the list of names and organisations on the map, which will be delivered to Government later this year. Anyone can add their name, including individuals, organisations, schools, local councils, charities, businesses or parliamentarians across the political spectrum.

Currently universal school meal provision is only available to children up to age 7 and for children in families on specific benefits from year 3. However, the scheme is failing to reach more than 800,000 children living in poverty due to the eligibility threshold being too low, and hundreds of thousands of students are turning up to school hungry or with empty lunch boxes.
The campaign argues that children should not be means tested in the middle of the school day and that lunch and healthy food provision should be seen as an intrinsic part of the education system.

Healthy, nutritious food is critical for children’s concentration and learning at school. The campaign film draws a comparison with the provision of school chairs, desks and bathrooms, and imagines a
day where these were also means-tested.

Barbara Crowther, Campaign Coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign comments:
“We believe in an education system free at the point of access. We don’t means test children for pencils or desks, so why for food? We don’t means test adults or children when it comes to hospital and prison meals, so it’s perverse that we still insist on this for our children. Many other countries around the world have already realised this and now seeing huge benefits of healthy meals for all.
“A good, healthy education is the foundation of our nation’s future prosperity. Providing free school meals for all has been shown to improve educational learning, reduce levels of obesity and lead to long-term improved earnings and economic contribution. Recent economic analysis by PWC shows a return of £1.71 for every pound invested, and potential economic return of up to £100 billion over a 20 year period. It’s time to stop saying no to our nation’s children, and say yes instead to healthy school food for all.”

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 school food for all.”

In Scotland, the government has committed to make school meals available to every primary school child, and this is already happening for children in Years P1-5 and being further extended this year. It has also promised to pilot universal meals in secondary schools.

In Wales, the government has also committed to make free school meals available to all primary school children over the next 3 years, starting with infants during 2022-23. Like England, a £7400 income threshold will still apply to secondary school pupils.

In Northern Ireland, there are no universal school meals. The family earnings threshold for eligibility
for free school meals is £14,000 (after tax, before benefits).

Free school meals will be offered to all primary school pupils across London for a year under plans by Mayor Sadiq Khan. The move will come into force from September 2023. On this Sadiq Khan has been quoted in The Guardian as saying that the move would “reduce the stigma that can be associated with being singled out as low-income” and boost take-up among families who needed the help most.

Will you join the campaign and Say Yes to school food for all?

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