Jamie Oliver says free school meals are for 'more than just nourishing bodies' - as Sadiq Khan extends scheme

Sadiq Khan has extended the universal free school meals scheme to 2024/25 - a move welcomed by Jamie Oliver and Tom Kerridge.
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"Huge kudos to Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, for extending free school meals across London for another academic year," said chef and TV star Jamie Oliver today.

Mr Khan has announced that the universal free school meals policy will continue into the 2024/25 academic year.

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A total of £140m in funding has been allocated, saving families up to £1,000 per child. The mayor's office says 287,000 London children benefit from the scheme.

Jamie Oliver backed the scheme, saying: "Not only will it help families make ends meet, but evidence proves that children having access to delicious, nutritious food at school is the foundation of their wellbeing and educational success.

"It’s more than just nourishing their bodies – it's a fundamental support system that significantly impacts their future. At a time when so many families are struggling financially, supporting free school meals has never been more vital. It’s a lifeline for children, providing the nourishment they need to thrive, despite these challenging times."

New polling from YouGov, commissioned by City Hall, suggests that 35% of parents or carers of children under 18 are buying less food and essentials, with 41% using less water, energy or fuel. Three in ten (30%) say they are "financially struggling".

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City Hall says separate polling it commissioned from YouGov has shown that parents whose children have school dinners overwhelmingly (92%) support universal free school meals.

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 am thrilled to announce my intention to extend this lifeline for families for yet another year.

“I know from personal experience what a difference these meals can make and 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.

"Sadly Londoners continue to struggle with the cost-of-living crisis and with the Government failing to step forward to deliver these meals, we have worked hard to find the money to provide this vital funding for the next academic year."

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Chef Tom Kerridge is another supporter of the scheme, saying: “This is great news for so many parents feeling the pressure from the cost-of-living crisis. No child should go hungry because their parents cannot afford to buy them lunch. This latest announcement from the mayor of London will reduce the burden on parents and carers across the capital, hit hard by rising costs, it is really good news."