Camden to permanently provide free school meals for all primary pupils

28 February 2023
All children in primary school in the London Borough of Camden will receive a free school meal from September.

Camden Council has announced that every primary school child in the borough will be entitled to free school meals (FSM), in response to the cost-of-living crisis that has left many families struggling to make ends meet. The policy, which will be permanent and not means-tested, aims to tackle child hunger and reduce reliance on food banks.

This announcement follows the news that the Mayor of London will provide funding for all primary school children in the capital to have FSM for 2023-24. Camden has now committed to making this permanent.

The council has also established a £1.3 million fund to help families with secondary school children who are struggling with the cost of uniforms and food. The additional support will be funded from part of the money raised by a 4.99% increase in council tax.

Currently, the London Boroughs of Islington, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and, as of last month, Westminster fund FSM for all their primary school pupils, regardless of family income. Southwark has announced it will provide FSM to more secondary school pupils from September. Tower Hamlets is planning to provide truly universal free school meals; removing means testing in both primary and secondary schools from this September.

All of this incredible work by local authorities is to be celebrated, but it is plugging a gap left by the government. The government has not changed its harsh eligibility criteria for free school meals since their introduction in 2018. It should follow the leadership shown by local politicians and stop means testing children for food.