London’s mayor is making headlines with a game-changing £130 million scheme to revolutionise primary school dining.
The initiative guarantees free school meals for every pupil – a move that’s set to tackle food poverty and improve well-being across the capital.
What is the initiative about?
The initiative is expected to benefit over 270,000 children, saving families around £440 per child during the 2023-24 academic year. The funding is a result of higher-than-expected council tax and business rate returns. Charities and unions have praised the plan but urge further action to combat food poverty. Khan announced the scheme during a visit to his former primary school, Fircroft Primary, in Tooting.
Khan, who received free school meals as a child, highlighted the cost-of-living crisis and the urgent need for additional support for families and children across the city.
He expressed his disappointment in the government’s failure to act on the issue despite his repeated calls for free school meals to help the already-stretched families. Khan emphasised the ‘game-changing’ impact that free school meals can have for children at risk of going hungry and families struggling to make ends meet.
The launch of this scheme follows similar decisions by London councils in Newham, Islington, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, and Westminster City Council to offer their universal primary school free school meals. Charities and teaching unions have welcomed the plans, but some have urged the central government to provide more comprehensive support to address food poverty.
The mayor’s office has stated that the funding for this project is a one-off from additional business rates income and has been made possible because council tax and business rates returns from the local authorities were higher than expected.
The scheme is set to be implemented in September and runs during term time only for the length of the academic year. The initiative is a significant step towards tackling food poverty and improving the well-being of primary school pupils in the capital.
However, this is not the only revolutionary plan Khan had. Back in 2021, Sadiq Khan also pledged to ban gambling ads across public transportation networks, taking the stance that gambling is devastating and can destroy lives and families. And while this decision might not have affected online casinos, it certainly cleared London transport from risky adverts.
Reactions to the plan
Barbara Crowther, from the Children’s Food Campaign, praised the London mayor for introducing a programme that provides free meals to primary school children for the upcoming academic year. However, she emphasized that healthy school food should not just be a temporary measure but a fundamental part of a comprehensive education system.
Victoria Benson, CEO of Gingerbread, a charity for single parents, welcomed the programme as it would relieve financial pressure on struggling families.