Tower Hamlets could extend its universal offer beyond primary schools, to include secondary schools as well.
The London Borough of Tower Hamlets has provided free school meals (FSM) for all children in its primary schools since 2014. This is above and beyond the provision the government funds: FSM for all up to Year 2, for some with no recourse to public funds, and for those whose families receive benefits but have an annual household income below £7,400.
In its draft budget, the council’s cabinet has proposed that a universal FSM offer is extended to all its secondary schools from September 2023. The proposal will be decided upon by the full council next month.
“Education is a huge part of progressing in life and having a student body eating nutritious meals everyday is fundamental to their education and a necessary precondition to their progression.
“Hunger – and in particular the hunger of children – is a scourge on society that can be addressed by the Government at local, regional and national levels. No expense should be spared in doing this.”
- Spokesperson for the Mayor of Tower Hamlets
51.4% of children in Tower Hamlets are living in poverty. This progressive move will guarantee them at least one hot, nutritious meal every school day. It will also have wider benefits, as Tower Hamlets estimate this investment can save a family with three children £1,425 per year.
We know that extending free school meals makes sense and a powerful movement for change is building We also knowit makes sense for the economy, particularly when FSMs are provided universally. Whilst we welcome this news from Tower Hamlets, it should not fall on local authorities to plug the gaps in provision of good nutrition; the government must step up and invest in the next generation.