More Than A Meal

3 October 2022
A new report from Bite Back 2030 discusses the impact of free school meals and calls for them to be provided to more children.

Our friends at Bite Back have published a new report presenting young people’s experiences of free school meals FSM. It recommends the government immediately extends FSM to all those from families in receipt of universal credit.

Those quoted in the report describe the ‘amazing difference in… concentration’ on receipt of free school meals. Sadly, the flipside is also discussed, with children who miss out on FSM going hungry, which affects their ability to learn. This hunger can lead to young people eating cheap food with little nutritional value, further exacerbating inequalities.

There is some positive news, as an increasing number of children are seeing mechanisms to mitigate stigma, such as cashless payment systems. However, there are still many obstacles to access, including ‘admin’, ‘internet access’ and disability. As the National Food Strategy stated, ‘it cannot be right to let paperwork stand between a child and a hot meal.’ Of course, universal provision would remove stigma and other barriers.

While an increasing number of children are becoming eligible for FSM, this is due to increasing levels of poverty, rather than more generous provision. It is currently estimated that one in three (800,000) children living in poverty in England are not entitled to FSM. This is due to the draconian eligibility threshold: a combined household income below £7,400 (after tax, before benefits).

We fully support the report’s call on the government for an expansion of FSM. The government should be working on providing free school meals for all. The first step towards that must be broadening the eligibility criteria to include all those from families in receipt of universal credit.

The report can be read in full here.