Charities call for urgent government review of school food

14 January 2021
Sub-standard food parcels revealed on social media have led to calls for an urgent review of school food policy across the UK.

Led by the Food Foundation, and with the firm backing of Marcus Rashford, food sector charities are calling for this review to be published and debated in Parliament before the next summer holidays. The scope of the review should include:

  1. Reviewing the current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals across all four nations to eliminate disparities and to explore whether disadvantaged children are being excluded in line with National Food Strategy recommendation. The ongoing eligibility for children with No Recourse to Public Funds should be considered explicitly. 
  2. Urgently considering how funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.
  3. Exploring how schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer, including by introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.
  4. Considering what we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.
  5. Considering how existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday and breakfast provision) can eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health and education. 
  6. Considering the role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

Since June, supported by Impact on Urban Health, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, SFM has been diving deep into the complexity of school food funding to consider whether there’s a better way to ensure that government investment is converting into good nutrition for children and young people. Led by Myles Bremner (formerly of School Food Plan) the report explores the concept of a ’school food premium'. This work has proved to be timely in the light of this call for a government school food review! 

Read the full list of recommendations.