We launched our Fair and Square campaign in 2012, calling on the government to extend free school meals to all children living in poverty, including low-income working families.
Free school meals provide vital support for low-income families and for almost a third of children, school lunch is their main meal of the day. Yet more than a million children in poverty are missing out on free school meals.
Why are free school meals important?
Our Fair and Square campaign report shows evidence that eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime:
- has important health and educational benefits for children
- can improve their diet and increase their concentration during afternoon lessons
- can potentially decrease health inequalities
What's more, free school meals help lift families out of poverty:
- Free school meals have a considerable cash value – around £370 per year per family.
- We estimate that free school meals already lift 140,000 children out of poverty.
- If the government expanded entitlement to free school meals to all families receiving Universal Credit, a further 100,000 children would be lifted out of poverty – helping to keep the government on target in its goal to end child poverty by 2020
Our campaign, backed by several organisations including the Trades Union Congress, the Association of Lecturers and Teachers and 4 Children, put the issue firmly on the agenda, resulting in the government announcing that all children in reception, years 1 and 2 will be entitled to a free school meal. This means an extra 1.4 million children will be able to rely on at least one free, nutritious meal every school day.
This result is a huge step forward for children and their families and shows how campaigning together can really get results.
Thanks to you and the tens of thousands of others who joined our Fair and Square campaign.
But our work won’t stop here. Many children older than year 2 are still missing out. We will keep calling for all children in poverty to get a free school meal.
- Fair and Square policy report: an in-depth review of the state of free school meals
- Briefing document: Extending Free School Meals: What it means for child poverty in the UK