London to continue providing universal free school meals next academic year

The Mayor of London has announced that universal free school meals for primary school children will continue for the 2024-25 academic school year.

Around £140 million will be spent on the programme, which is currently delivering meals to up to 287,000 children each day and has funded more than 17 million meals already between September and Christmas.

A recent report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the National Education Union has shown that providing all children free school meals has a wide range of benefits including improving financial and psychological security for parents and improving nutrition and school engagement with improved concentration and engagement from pupils. It also reduces stigma for those who would ordinarily get means-tested meals.

New statistics from YouGov, commissioned by City Hall have shown that 35 per cent of parents or carers of children under 18 are buying less food and essentials, with 41 per cent using less water, energy or fuel to help them manage living costs. 30 per cent say they are ‘financially struggling'.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Delivering free school meals has been one of my proudest moment 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.

“I will continue to do all I can to help families cope with the cost-of-living crisis as we build a fairer and more prosperous London for all.”

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