Sadiq Khan’s free school meals to start next term as new figures show extent of the cost-of-living crisis

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Latest Polling from YouGov Plc shows that around one in six parents (16%) of children between five and 11 years are going without essentials, including food, electricity or gas.

Hundreds of thousands of primary schoolchildren in London are set to benefit from free school meals next year as shocking figures show parents, guardians and carers across the capital are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

The mayor’s office said it is estimated the one-off £135m funding could help more than 270,000 children in the capital during the 2023-24 academic year.

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City Hall says this will save families around £440 per child across the year amid the spiralling cost of living crisis.

Latest Polling from YouGov Plc shows that around one in six parents (16%) of children between five and 11 years are going without essentials, including food, electricity or gas, with more than one in three (36%) buying less food and essentials.

More than one in three (36%) parents and guardians of children between five and 11 years say they are ‘financially struggling’, with around one in six (15%) going without basic needs or relying on debt to pay for them.

The mayor of London said he received free school meals as a child. Credit: Getty ImagesThe mayor of London said he received free school meals as a child. Credit: Getty Images
The mayor of London said he received free school meals as a child. Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

The mayor, who received free school meals as a child said: “It is truly shocking that so many families across the capital are struggling to feed themselves as they deal with the escalating cost-of-living crisis.

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“It simply cannot be right that in a city as prosperous as ours around one in six parents are going without essentials to get by. I’m determined to do all I can to help and know from personal experience what a lifeline free school meals can be.

“That is why I stepped forward with this unprecedented funding to provide hundreds of thousands of primary school children with free school meals. By ensuring children don’t go hungry in the classroom and helping their families, we can build a better and more prosperous city for all Londoners.”

The funding will deliver free school meals to pupils in Years 3-6 of state-funded schools for a year from September with boroughs receiving £2.65 per meal.

Currently children in those school years only receive free school meals if they live in households on universal credit earning less than £7,400 a year - after tax and not including benefits, and regardless of the number of children in the family.

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From September all primary school children from years 3 to 6 in London will receive free school meals for a yearFrom September all primary school children from years 3 to 6 in London will receive free school meals for a year
From September all primary school children from years 3 to 6 in London will receive free school meals for a year | AFP via Getty Images

Following his announcement earlier this year, the Mayor has set aside an additional £5m of funding to act as a contingency for any extraordinary costs associated with the delivery of the meals.

The mayor visited Stroud Green Primary in Haringey on Thursday July 13 to see the preparations taking place ahead of the free school meals starting after the summer holidays.

Lucy Walker-Collins, headteacher at Stroud Green Primary School, said: “We are delighted that we’re able to provide free school meals to all children in our school for the next academic year. It will make a big difference to the children to receive these meals each day and be a huge support to their parents and guardians.”

The leader of Haringey Council, Cllr Peray Ahmet, said: “The cost of living crisis and the rising price of food means many parents and carers are finding it difficult to feed their families and lots are struggling who are not eligible for any free school meals at present.

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“That’s why we welcome the mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s visit to Haringey and his emergency intervention to provide all London primary school children free school meals throughout the next academic year.

“This invaluable support will ensure that our children are provided for, and no child will go without.”

The launch follows similar decisions by London councils in Newham, Islington, Southwark and Tower Hamlets to offer their own universal primary school free school meals.

Emma Best AM, City Hall Conservatives health spokesperson previously said: “While I welcome more children having access to free school meals this year, the reality is that many lower income families will be hit hard by a 57% increase in Sadiq Khan’s Council Tax since 2016 and his £12.50 daily ULEZ charge.

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“This one-off package has completely missed secondary school pupils, meaning that lower income parents of older children are paying for wealthier families’ younger children.

“If the mayor genuinely wants to help the poorest families, he should be focusing on those most in need across all schools.”

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