London Assembly calls for expansion of free school meals

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More funding is required for free school meals and breakfast clubs to help tackle high levels of child food poverty, recommends a report by the London Assembly.

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The report, which states that nearly 40 per cent of children in the capital are living in poverty after housing costs are taken into account, makes a number of recommendations to turn London into a 'zero hunger city'.

It recommends that Boris Johnson agree to free healthy school meals for all families receiving Universal Credit and asks the London Food Board to identify models for providing universal healthy free school meals for all children across the capital.

The London Assembly also suggests reviewing the criteria that assesses eligibility for free school meals. As well as this, it recommends working with partners to establish sustainable free breakfast clubs in schools which do not currently receive any specific funding to run them. According to the Assembly, it costs between £2,000 and £10,000 a year to run breakfast clubs.

The report also says that school governing bodies should have a plan to identify and tackle food poverty problems. This should include engagement with a food poverty link worker (to be appointed in every borough) to ensure availability of a free breakfast and taking action to address the needs of hungry children during the school holidays.

A number of surveys have found a large number of children are living in food poverty. A London Assembly survey of teachers in late 2012 stated that over 95 per cent of teachers reported that some children come to school hungry and over 60 per cent had given food to children at their own expense. Two out of five of these teachers reported giving food to  pupils up to once a month and one out of five reported giving food to pupils between one and four times a month.

Fiona Twycross AM, who led the investigation on behalf of the Assembly’s Health and Environment Committee, said, ‘It is shocking to think that in one of the richest cities in the world, there are thousands of Londoners going hungry.’

‘Food poverty is affecting people all across the city – young and old, people in low paid jobs and on benefits. This has alarming consequences because children who are hungry struggle to fulfil their potential, while elderly people can develop malnutrition.

It is unacceptable to have Londoners relying on food bank donations to feed their children or stay out of hospital. This is a significant problem that needs long-term commitment and solutions and the Mayor and his team need to act now to turn this problem around and stamp out hunger in London.’


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