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Free school lunches for all primary school aged children

Westminster City Council will ensure all children attending state-funded primary schools in Westminster will receive a free school lunch – saving families up to £550 per child, per year.

Starting in January, the council will fund school lunches for all Key Stage 2 children (Years 3 – 6) who attend a Westminster primary school. The funding will be given directly to schools and has been agreed for an initial period of 18 months to support families struggling with the acute cost of living crisis.

Free school lunches are already provided for children in Reception and Key Stage 1 (up to Year 2) which is funded by the Department for Education. Westminster City Council will now extend this to include children in Key Stage 2 so that every primary school will be able to provide a free, healthy meal to every child each lunchtime.

This is Westminster Council’s latest intervention to help struggling families during this time of high food prices and soaring energy bills. The council recently announced a new package of support totalling more than £10million to support its most vulnerable residents.

The council is also encouraging families eligible for the Free School Meals programme to continue to register to ensure they receive access to supermarket vouchers and food and activities in the school holidays. Westminster recently announced it is extending support to children in receipt of FSM over the Christmas holidays.

Research shows that when children do not have enough to eat, they are less likely to achieve their potential at school. Children who experience food insecurity are also more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, and child hunger has been linked to depression.

Councillor Adam Hug, Leader of Westminster City Council, said:

“Many working families who don’t qualify for free school meals are facing financial difficulties this winter as the cost of living crisis bites.

“This £2.7million investment will offer direct support to those who need it most and ensure that children don’t go hungry at school.

“Westminster City Council is determined to help our most vulnerable residents as food prices and energy bills soar. The free school lunch offer is in addition to a £10 million package of cost of living support which will create new food banks and help residents pay their energy bills.”

Councillor Tim Roca, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Leisure, said:

“We know families are struggling with the cost of living and that children face going hungry at school as a result. It’s vital that children are given a nutritious meal at school to help with their learning and to improve their overall health.

“That’s why we are announcing free lunches for all Westminster children in Years 3 to 6, saving parents up to £550 per child, per year.

“This will mean all Westminster children attending our primary schools will receive a free, healthy lunch - providing direct support to our most vulnerable families and making sure children are able to thrive at school."

Dr Regina Keith, Senior Lecturer in Global Public Health & Nutrition, University of Westminster, said:

“With the present increase in food and heating costs, there are now 3.1 billion families in the world who cannot afford a healthy diet. Research indicates that universal free school meals can lead to increased willingness to learn and increased aspiration for future careers, especially for children from low-income families.

“With challenges facing millions of families, it is a beacon of hope to learn that Westminster City Council has selected to use their limited resources to invest in the future of their children by providing free school lunches for all primary school children.

“If we invest in our children we are investing in our own future, we must strive to ensure all of our children can aspire to a healthy future where they can achieve their potential and their dreams.”

Cory Mclauchlan, Head of School at Robinsfield George Eliot Federation, said: 

“Some of our most vulnerable families are really struggling this winter and there’s a real danger that many families could have to choose between heating and eating. 

“At George Eliot Primary School we have a strong commitment to providing healthy meals every day and making sure our children are always ready to learn. The free lunch offer from Westminster Council will therefore make a huge difference to families and guarantee that no child is left behind.”

The formal decision to expand free school meals for primary pupils will be taken at a meeting of the Cabinet on 12th December. You can view the papers here.

Published: 7 December 2022