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Local Government Association calls for free school meals extension

28 Mar 2022
More than a million additional schoolchildren could receive free school meals and be entitled to extra support funding if the sign-up process for the scheme was simplified and extended to more families says the Local Government Association.

The call for free school meals expansion comes as the Government is expected to publish its food strategy white paper imminently, which will contain a range of new proposals on tackling inequalities in access to healthy food and improving the environmental and public health impact of our national food supply.

The LGA is also urging the Government to review the current £7,400 income threshold for free school meals, which has remained unchanged since its introduction in 2018. By lowering the income threshold the scheme would reach more children who are on the cusp of experiencing food poverty as household budgets are squeezed by rising prices and inflation.

Government estimates on claim rates indicate that automatic enrolment could capture the 11% of eligible school children who have not yet taken up the offer. Analysis of these figures by the LGA and the Child Poverty Action Group show this equates to 215,000 schoolchildren in England, under the current eligibility criteria.

The LGA says a further 1.1 million children could benefit from free school meals if the income threshold is changed and immigration limitations on who is eligible are lifted on a permanent basis

Cllr Shaun Davies, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “Rising food, fuel and other costs affect everybody, but particularly low-income households with children who rely on extra support to make ends meet. Given these pressures, it is absolutely essential that all those who are eligible can get the help they need, including access to free school meals, at a time when we know the price of food and the general cost of living are spiralling.”