12 Feb 2013

The Children’s Society and 38 Degrees have joined forces to call on the government to make free school meals available to all children in poverty.

The two organisations have teamed up with school children to hand in over 90,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street.

Every day, more than half of the 2.2 million school children living in poverty in England miss out on a free school meal. Of these, 700,000 are not even entitled to one – often because their parents work, regardless of how little they earn.

Help end child poverty

Free school meals can help to lift children out of poverty. The Children’s Society estimates that 140,000 children have already been moved out of poverty by receiving them. Making them available to all children in need would help keep the government on target to meet its target to end child poverty by 2020.

The Children’s Society’s Fair and Square campaign is calling for every child in poverty to get a free school meal. And with the introduction of changes to the benefit system under Universal Credit, the government has a unique opportunity to change policy to make this happen.

Struggling to put food on the table

Lily Caprani, Director of Communications and Policy at The Children’s Society, said: 'Nearly three quarters of teachers told us they are seeing children in school with no lunch, and no way to pay for one. We know from the families we work with up and down the country that parents are struggling to put food on the table.

'Tens of thousands of people have joined our call for the government to take this practical – and very straightforward – step towards ending child poverty.'

38 Degrees’ Executive Director, David Babbs, said: 'It is outrageous that any child in poverty isn’t getting a free school meal, let alone over a million. 38 Degrees members have come together in their tens of thousands to help fix this injustice – and make sure these children, the very poorest and most vulnerable in our society, get at least one decent meal a day.'

Media enquiries

For more information, please call Beth Herzfeld in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422, 07775 812 357 or by email. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editors 

  • Six in 10 children living in poverty are in low-income working families.
  • Government cuts are pushing more children into poverty. As it recently admitted, its plan to cap benefit rises at 1% will push 200,000 more children into poverty.
  • The Children’s Society’s recent report Food for Thought: A survey on teachers' views on school meals reveals alarming evidence of child poverty and hunger in UK schools. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of teachers reported seeing children coming to school with no lunch and no means to pay for one. Two-thirds (66%) of the teachers we spoke to stated that staff provide pupils with food or money if they come into school hungry; 98% of teachers believe that all children in poverty should receive a free school meal.
  • For more information about the campaign, please visit the Fair and Square section of our website
  • The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life. 
  • 38 Degrees is one of the UK's biggest campaigning communities, with over 1 million members. 38 Degrees members use lots of different tactics to bring about change, like signing petitions, emailing or phoning our MPs and chipping in to fund newspaper ads about our campaigns.