Tower Hamlets: Free school meals for all secondary pupils

25 May 2023
The London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ Cabinet has approved an extension of free school meals to secondary school pupils.

Earlier this year, we heard that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) was considering an expansion of universal free school meals (UFSM) to its secondary schools. This would extend its existing provision of UFSM in primary schools, and end means testing for school food up to age 16.

A meeting of the council’s cabinet on 24th May approved the proposals, meaning the rollout will begin this September. The mayor hopes to have all LBTH schools on the scheme by January 2024, making it the first local authority to do this in the country.

This extension has been made easier thanks to the Mayor of London’s funding for UFSM in all the capital’s primary schools, which freed up funding LBTH was previously investing in its primary pupils.

This ambitious policy will bring a wealth of benefits for LBTH’s young people, as the growing body of evidence points towards. Research also shows that for secondary school pupils, school food is the lunch option most associated with good mental wellbeing.

Providing school meals for so many will be no small feat. Reassuringly, a pilot in Hammersmith and Fulham found UFSM in secondary schools to be ‘feasible and acceptable’. We celebrate the courage of this plan and look forward to the product of many brilliant people’s hard work, resulting in a stigma-free school food borough.