Commons debate underscores need for free school meals

8 May 2024
MPs debate provision of free school meals, highlighting the staggering statistics of child hunger in England.

MPs stressed the importance of nutritious lunches, auto-enrolment, and increased funding for school food yesterday at a Westminster Hall debate. There were also several calls to reconsider the extremely low-income threshold of £7,400 that prevents more than 900,000 children who are living below the poverty line from accessing a free school meal.

Liberal Democrat Munira Wilson, who secured the debate, drew attention to situations taking place in schools across England:

“A child pretending to eat out of an empty lunchbox because they do not qualify for free school meals and do not want their friends to know that there is no food at home; a child coming into school having not eaten anything since lunch the day before, so hungry that they are eating rubbers at school; and a child hiding in the playground because they do not think they can get a meal—all stories from schools in England today. This has to stop.” 

Labour MP, Mrs Sharon Hodgson reiterated the need for change saying:

“Free school meals are foundational to a fair and equal school experience. When we provide them, they leave inequality at the school gate and liberate children from the injustice of the haves and the have-nots.” 

We at School Food Matters believe every child, no matter their circumstances, should have access to a hot, healthy meal at school, and that’s why we are calling on the government to prioritise universal free school meals. 

Read the Westminster transcript here or watch the debate here.