More than 20,000 children across Harrow and Brent will continue to receive free school meals next year after the mayor announced plans to extend the programme. The £140m scheme provides meals for London’s state primary school children to support families through the cost-of-living crisis.
In the UK, children can get free school meals if their parents receive state benefits, such as Universal Credit, Income Support or Child Tax Credit. London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, agreed to fund the meals for every London student not already covered by the government funding for another year.
This means 11,502 children in Brent, and a further 9,976 in Harrow, are set to benefit again from the policy for a further academic year. It will provide £3 per meal to each council to keep delivering the scheme from September, which City Hall claims will save families £1,000 per child over two years.
Labour Greater London Assembly member for Brent and Harrow, Krupesh Hirani AM, is ‘delighted’ that the mayor has committed to continue funding the scheme and help families fight the ‘brutal effects’ of the cost-of-living crisis.
He said: “I have long campaigned on the issue of childhood hunger, with reports coming out over several years showing unacceptable levels of food poverty in the capital. Children who do not have enough to eat are at risk of poor physical and mental health and will struggle to concentrate in lessons.
He added: “I am thrilled that this genuinely life changing policy will continue, and that London’s children and families get the support they need.”
A report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the National Education Union demonstrated that providing all children free school meals has a wide range of benefits, including improving nutrition, reducing the stigma for children who get means-tested meals, and getting better engagement from pupils as they are able to concentrate in class.
However, youth education charity Impetus have responded to the scheme by suggesting funding breakfast for disadvantaged pupils would have better targeted those most in need and a universal approach could impact badly on the most deprived pupils.
The move is an extension of the mayor’s £135m programme last year, which for the first time provided meals to all of the roughly 287,000 students across the capital. It has funded more than 17 million meals between September and Christmas, according to City Hall.
Mr Khan, said: “Delivering free school meals has been one of my proudest moments as Mayor as I have seen the difference it has made to the children receiving them and to their families. I know from personal experience what a difference these meals can make”.
He added: “It’s been fantastic to hear from teachers how much better children are performing and also how much parents and their children have benefited, with parents not having to worry about how to provide their children with a healthy, nutritious meal during the school day.”