17 Sep 2013

Today’s announcement from the government making free school meals available to 1.4 million more children marks a significant step forward.

This landmark move means 200,000 more children living in poverty will be able to rely on at least one hot, nutritious meal every school day – and will help hard-pressed families across the country in the face of rising costs and food prices. 

A free school meal will be offered to all school children in reception, year 1 and year 2. It will also lead to around 160,000 disadvantaged college students being offered a free school meal. 

Tireless campaigning

The Children’s Society, through its Fair and Square campaign, has been tirelessly campaigning for every school child in poverty to be entitled to a free school meal. 

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:

'Today’s announcement making free school meals available to 1.4 million more children marks an historic step forward in the fight against child poverty.

'It also marks a significant victory for The Children’s Society’s Fair and Square campaign, which has galvanised over 100,000 people across the country to call for free school meals to be available to many more children in poverty.

Facing hardship

'This latest move clearly shows that the government is recognising the hardship that thousands of families are facing. This will lead to 200,000 more poor children being given the chance to get a free, nutritious meal at school.'

The Children’s Society added that it is vital that today’s momentum is not lost. An imminent announcement about what to do about free school meals under changes to the benefit system, through Universal Credit, could pave the way to lift other school children not covered by this announcement, out of poverty. 

Media enquiries

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

Notes to editors

  • Currently 700,000 children are not entitled to a free school meal despite their need because their parents work. Today’s announcement will cut this number by 200,000.
  • See our Fair and Square campaign for more information.
  • 3.5 million children in the UK are living in poverty. 
  • In February, The Children’s Society and 38 Degrees handed in The Fair and Square petition of 90,000 signatures calling for the government to make free school meals available to all children living in poverty.
  • Six in 10 children living in poverty are in low-income working families.
  • 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.