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20 February 2023
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Free school meals for all children in London announced

All primary school children in London will get free school meals for the next school year. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan will provide the funding as an emergency cost of living support measure, to tackle what he said was a failure by ministers to step up support during the cost of living crisis.

The move will come into force from September, saving families about £440 for every child and benefiting 270,000 children, City Hall estimates.

The mayor, who himself received free school meals as a boy, said he hoped the move would help “reduce the stigma that can be associated with being singled out as low-income” and boost take-up among families who needed the help most. Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren live in poverty but are not eligible for free school meals because of the government’s “restrictive” eligibility criteria, the mayor’s office said.

A household on universal credit must make less than £7,400 a year – after tax and not including benefits – to be eligible.

Khan’s one-off proposal, worth £130m and funded from higher-than-expected business rates income, is designed to fill that gap by making free meals universal across London primary schools.

Some London boroughs – including Islington, Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets – already offer free primary school meals universally, and Westminster started offering them for 18 months from January.

Jason Strelitz, Co-Chair of ADPH London and Director of Public Health at Newham Council said:

“ADPH London welcomes this announcement from the Mayor of London. At a time that household budgets are under unprecedented pressure, the news that all primary school children are to receive free school meals for the year ahead could not be more timely.

“Good nutrition is fundamental to the healthy development, educational attainment and wellbeing of children and this intervention will provide vital, targeted help for many families who are currently struggling.”

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