Posted: 30 April 2012

Extending free school meals is key to combatting child malnutrition

On Friday The Prince’s Trust released findings that suggest that since the recession, teachers are seeing increasingly large numbers of children coming into school malnourished, or showing signs that they haven’t eaten enough. Shockingly, some teachers admitted they have to buy food for children from their own wages.

This is of grave concern. Not only does it have obvious implications on the health of children, but a poor diet can also make it harder for children to concentrate, and so make the most of their education.

However the government has the opportunity to make a real difference for the increasing numbers of school children going hungry.

Fair and Square

Last week we released our report Fair and Square: The future of free school meals, which highlighted that as many as 700,000 children living in poverty are not entitled to receive free school meals, normally simply because their parents are in work.

We believe the government must take the opportunity provided by its upcoming review of the eligibility criteria for free school meals to introduce a system that ensures that all children living in poverty are entitled to receive them.

How important is a free school meal?

For many children a free school meal can be their main meal of the day, ensuring that they get at least one full meal. Indeed, among parents we surveyed who either were, or had recently been, entitled to free school meals, nearly a third said that their child’s lunch was their main meal.

The disturbing findings from The Prince’s Trust make it all the more important that the government take up the recommendations of our report and campaign, and extend free school meals to all children living in poverty.

Doing so would help to ensure that all children are able to get a full meal in the middle of the day, and mean that teachers have to worry less about whether children are properly fed, and able to fully concentrate on getting the best possible education.

Please join our Fair and Square campaign to call on the government to ensure that all children in poverty can get a free school meal.

By Sam Royston, Policy Adviser

By Sam Royston - Policy team

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It is disturbing to hear that so many children are living without enough food in this country, when politicians have ridiculous expenses and bankers have bonuses big enough to feed every child in the country a school dinner, and all out of the pockets of these children's parents!
There are children starving right under our noses and it should be a no brainer that all children in free education should get free school meals. Or donation should be voluntary so people who can't afford much could contribute a bit so they don't feel inferior. My daughter was entitled to free meals for a while but would not have them because of the stigma. The way free meals are handled in schools creates a social divide and so all should have free meals.