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In Scotland, the Government has dedicated to offering free faculty meals for all major faculty children (Image: Getty)

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has been urged to make use of his Spring Budget to increase free faculty meals for all major faculty pupils.  

In Scotland, the Government has dedicated to offering free faculty meals for all major faculty kids, whereas in Wales the rollout of common major free faculty meals started in September 2022.

But in England, solely in London do all major pupils get entry to free scorching meals, a scheme now in its second 12 months after it was prolonged by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in January.

Graham Whitham, chief government at Greater Manchester Poverty Action, mentioned: “Families across the country are being hit hard by soaring living costs, and at a time when every penny counts, we’ve got to get past this awful situation where you have to meet a very low-income threshold for your child(ren) to be eligible for free school meals.

“The threshold is set incredibly low and hasn’t been uprated since 2018, so it’s frozen in time, and more and more struggling families are finding their income isn’t quite low enough to be below that threshold – and therefore, aren’t eligible for free school meals.”

Households in England receiving Universal Credit and earning below £7,400 a year before benefits and after-tax qualify for free school meals. In Northern Ireland, the family earnings threshold is £14,000 after tax and before benefits.

According to official government figures, 23.8 percent of pupils were eligible for free school meals in 2023 – a figure that is up from 22.5 percent in 2022, but campaigners say this is nowhere near enough.

Independent North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, said: “Child poverty not only damages individuals and families, but it also leaves deep scarring on our society and economy.

“In the sixth richest country in the world, no child, or parent should be going without food.

“We need the Government to step up and support our work by extending free school meals to all primary school children.

“I also urge the Tories and Labour to scrap the cruel two-child benefit cap, which traps over 45,000 kids in poverty in the North East alone.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers the Autumn Statement in London

MPs and campaigners have called on Jeremy Hunt to extend free school meals to all in England (Image: Getty)

It comes as shocking figures, from charity The Food Foundation, revealed that in January 2024, 15 percent of UK households were living in food insecurity. This is equivalent to approximately eight million adults and three million children.

One in five (20 percent) households with children reported that children directly were experiencing food insecurity, and that rises to 35 per cent for single adult households.

Even for those in some kind of employment, 15 per cent were food insecure, showing that being in work doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have enough money to afford food.

Last year, Mr Khan announced plans to offer all London primary school children free meals for one year, to tackle what he said was a failure by ministers to step up support during the cost-of-living crisis.

He said he knew “from personal experience that free school meals are a lifeline”, as his parents relied on them to give his family “a little extra breathing room financially”, and free meals could be “game-changing” for others struggling to make ends meet.

Back in January, Mr Khan allocated another £130million to the project, which will rise to £140million for the next. He said he was “thrilled to extend this lifeline for another year”.

Mr Khan, said: “I’m pleased to see the Daily Express uniting with partners to call on the Government to provide free school meals for all primary school children across the UK.

“I know from personal experience what a difference these meals can make. That’s why delivering them to all state primary schoolchildren in London this year and next is one of my proudest moments in my work to build a fairer London for all.

“The Government’s failure to deliver free school meals for all is leaving parents struggling to feed their children as they try to cope with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

“Pupils, parents, and schools all benefit when every child is offered a nutritious meal, with 78 percent of London parents saying their family budgets have eased thanks to free school meals for all. I urge the Chancellor to step forward and provide this funding.”


In England, only children in London get free school meals, thanks to London Mayor Sadiq Khan (Image: Getty)

Critics argue that this all comes at a cost. Extending free school meals to all primary state school pupils in England would cost an additional £1billion in the longer term, according to the IFS. That is enough to give every teacher in the UK a £2,000 pay rise. 

But research shows that expanding free school meals could actually generate billions for the economy across health, education and social sectors. 

Analysis from PwC, commissioned by the Impact for Urban Health, found that for every £1 invested in providing meals to all children in households on universal credit, £1.38 would be returned over the next 20 years through “core benefits” across social, health and educational areas.

England International footballer Marcus Rashford has been working to secure free school meals for all school children since the Covid-19 pandemic. 

His own family relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals and at times, food banks so the issue is one close to his heart.

He explained previously: “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.”

In the last few years, Mr Rashford has helped raise enough money to enable charity FareShare to distribute the equivalent of over 21 million meals for children and families who might not otherwise eat, raised awareness of child hunger in the UK and launched and spearheaded the Child Food Poverty Taskforce.

MP Caroline Lucas said: “Millions of families can no longer afford a warm home, a warm meal or even, in some cases, any meal at all. 

“As children go hungry and parents struggle to cope with this spiralling cost-of-living crisis, the Government must no longer drag its feet: we need free school meals rolled out across the country as a matter of urgency.”

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Mr Whitham added: “We continue to back calls to introduce free school meals for all primary school children.

“Universal free school meals would make a huge difference to low-income families, giving parents peace of mind and really positively impacting their children’s ability to concentrate and do well at school.”

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, said: “The borough, Newham, which I represent in Parliament pioneered universal free school meals in primary schools over ten years ago.

“The Mayor of London just lately prolonged the coverage throughout London. Free major faculty meals have been massively fashionable, and make a really large distinction for hard-pressed, hard-working households.

“The evidence is increasingly clear that the policy also helps children do better at school, and has a long-term positive impact on their health.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: “We want to give every child the best start in life and we understand the pressures many households are under, which is why we have doubled the number of children receiving free school meals since 2010 from one-sixth to one third.

“We are supporting the most vulnerable with record cost-of-living support worth around £3,700 per household and have halved inflation to help everyone’s money go further, while our Household Support Fund is also helping people with the cost of essentials.”

Donna mother-of-threeStruggling mum Donna earns just over the threshold to qualify for free school meals for her boys [The Food Foundation]

Working mother-of-three Donna earns over the threshold to qualify for free school meals for her boys, but still finds herself struggling to afford to put a meal on the table every night.

Often, the 38-year-old ends up feeding her three sons before herself.  

For all three of her boys to have a hot dinner at school at lunchtime sets her back £150 a month, which is a big hit to her monthly budget.

Speaking to the Express, Donna, from County Durham, said: “Everything has gone up in recent months and it’s had a massive effect on us. 

“My gas and electric bills are huge each month and there’s no help out there for single mums. 

“I work really hard, I have a mortgage and still, most days all I have to eat is beans on toast because it’s all I can afford, after feeding my kids.” 

Donna said she has benefited from two cost-of-living bonuses recently but said that these didn’t “touch the sides”.

She added: “I have to go food shopping later in the evening now, so I don’t miss the clearance items that are going out of date. 

“We have always bought the basic range and when it comes to treats for the boys, they often have to go without. I feel bad saying no and I do try my best for them but it’s so hard.”

She works 25 hours a week and receives around £800 a month from Universal Credit to top her up but every month she is counting down the days until payday. 

On more than one occasion, she has been forced to dip into her boys’ savings when things got particularly tight. 

The introduction of free school meals for all primary school children across the country would be “game-changing” for Donna. 

She added: “My life would change dramatically if free school meals were introduced for all primary school children across the country, like they’ve done in London.  

“It baffles me why London has access to this but not us elsewhere in the country. We promote ourselves are being one nation that sticks together but it doesn’t feel like that up here in the Northeast. 

“There also needs to be more help for single mums out there. I’ve got a good job, I work really hard and I don’t understand why I have to live like this. 

“I don’t have anyone to share the pressure of the rises with. I do think sometimes, ‘What have I done to deserve this life.’”

Niamh Sweeney, Deputy General Secretary, National Education Union

Every day, lecturers are seeing the consequences of the cost-of-living disaster. We know from our current ballot that greater than half of fogeys in England are reducing again on the meals store. One in three instructed us they’ve much less meals and fewer wholesome meals for his or her kid’s lunchbox. We know, too, that point in addition to cash are an impediment for busy dad and mom attempting to make ends meet. 

In addition, little one poverty has grown astronomically. We now have 4.2 million kids – that is 9 in a category of 30 – residing in poverty. Half 1,000,000 extra reside in deep poverty than in 2010. And after all, due to the work of Marcus Rashford all of us noticed throughout Covid how important faculty lunches are to these households.

In London, the Mayor has launched a brand new scheme offering Free School Meals for all primary-age kids. The optimistic results are plain to see. It signifies that kids can eat collectively and be taught collectively. Parents are benefitting, too. They inform us they’ve been in a position to focus extra on their work. They also can get extra high quality time with their household, serving to with homework or just taking part in with their kids.

The current NEU/ Survation survey confirmed 88 per cent of fogeys exterior London help Free School Meals for all major faculty kids throughout England. The governments in Wales and Scotland are already on board. It’s been proven to work, and we together with well being consultants assume it is half and parcel of a great training. 

So, the one particular person holding the UK again is Rishi Sunak. We have the Spring Budget approaching 6 March, when he and Jeremy Hunt, his Chancellor, could make a distinction by backing and funding Free School Meals for all major faculty kids.  

It would not simply make instructional sense. It makes financial sense too. The revered accounting agency PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded that for each £1 invested in common free faculty meals, the economic system would make again £1.71. The Government level to the necessity for a robust economic system, however we can’t see a robust economic system till we begin to put money into our youngsters. 

No Child Left Behind, based by the National Education Union, is campaigning for an finish to little one poverty. We additionally wish to guarantee each little one in Britain has the fundamentals to be taught and thrive. Free School Meals for all major faculty kids is one necessary step in the direction of attaining this.