From September 2023, every Primary school pupil in London will be offered free school meals for a year. It comes as new plans were announced today (February 20) by Mayor Sadiq Khan, which will see City Hall fund the cost for the whole of the next academic year.
Around 270,000 pupils will benefit from this new policy, with every family saving around £440 for each child.
The scheme is worth around £130 million, lasting for a full academic year, and the Mayor’s office says it comes as “one-off funding from additional business rates income”. Some boroughs – including Tower Hamlets, Newham, and Islington – already run universal free school meals, but this new scheme is set to ensure that all of London’s Primary schools receive this during 2023-2024.
The Mayor appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning to speak about the news, who spoke about his own experience receiving free school meals, and that by making them universal it would help reduce stigma and also provide children with equal opportunities to excel at school.
Speaking before a visit to Fircroft Primary school in Tooting, his former school, Mayor Sadiq Khan 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.”
Khan added that 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”.
It is hoped this move will help the hundreds of schoolchildren living in poverty that are unable to qualify for free school meals due to the eligibility criteria that has been described as “restrictive” by the the Mayor’s office.
To be eligible, a family on Universal Credit must currently make under £7,400-a-year after tax and without benefits.
But, for the 2023-2024 academic year, this funding will ensure that all pupils have access to free school meals.
Barbara Crowther, who works for Children’s Food Campaign said: “We applaud the mayor for announcing this vital nutritional safety net for every single primary school child in London for the coming academic year.
“However, healthy school food for all must not just be an emergency measure. It should be a core part of a fully inclusive education system for the long term.”
An official announcement is to be made on February 23 as part of Sadiq Khan’s budget ahead of the latest Mayoral elections in May.