The Mayor of London has unveiled plans to extend his groundbreaking free school meals policy into the 2024/25 academic year.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced £140 million of investment to provide free meals from September 2024 meaning that, for a second year running, all primary-aged children in London will be able to receive a school dinner each day.
Since the programme’s introduction in September 2023, more than 287,000 children have received over 17 million meals. Commenting on the plan, Khan said:
“Delivering free school meals has been one of my proudest moments 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.”
In response to the announcement, Newham Council posted on X.com:
We welcome the @MayorofLondon's announcement that universal free school meals funding will be extended for another year.— Newham London 💙 (@NewhamLondon) January 9, 2024
We have repeatedly called on the Gov to allocate funding to universal free school meals and written to the Prime Minister about this.https://t.co/3ej2BB5fKA https://t.co/yM1zd45Ygc
A report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the National Education Union has also shown that the programme improves financial and psychological security for parents, with YouGov reporting that 30% of parents or carers of children under 18 are “financially struggling”. The new funding will offer boroughs in the capital £3 per meal, which is 18.5% higher than the £2.53 offered by the Government. Nikita Sinclair, Head of Children’s Health and Food Programme at Impact on Urban Health, said:
“Free school meals remain a key way to ensure all children receive the nutrition they need to learn and thrive in school, and to support households under financial pressure.
“Children across the country deserve the same chance – national government needs to follow suit and urgently expand entitlement to free school meals.”
This announcement is the latest in a string of investments into supporting Londoners through the cost-of-living crisis, with £3.46 billion already invested into affordable housing in the capital and £400 million invested into skills and employment programmes to help citizens secure jobs.
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