Tories announce an increase in funding for free school meals for toddlers – from just 7p per child

Schools can spend £2.41 per child on infant meals from April, a rise of 7p – what critics have called “pathetic”.

Funding for universal free school meals for the youngest children will increase by just 7p per pupil, what critics have called “pathetic”.

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi has announced an £18million increase in free lunches for toddlers, following an outcry over the government’s new feeding strategy.

All children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are entitled to free school meals in England, while older pupils qualify if their families receive certain benefits.

Schools can now spend £2.41 per toddler meal retroactive to April, up 7p from last year.

Announcing the move, Mr Zahawi acknowledged that families are under pressure from the cost of living.

He said: “We are increasing our funding for universal free school meals for young children because we know more can be done as costs rise.”

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi acknowledges the impact of rising costs



However, teachers’ unions warned that the sub-inflation rise would not be enough given rising costs.

dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said: “We have called for the expansion of funding and eligibility for free school meals and as such this announcement is to be welcomed.

“However, it falls far short of meeting the significant and rapidly growing number of children and young people of all ages who need help to ensure they do not go hungry.”

He warned that “many more students risk having their health and well-being compromised” if the government doesn’t expand entitlements to free school meals.

James Bowen, director of policy at NAHT, said teachers had reported that more and more families were struggling to afford essentials – and schools were also grappling with rising energy bills and increasing pressure on their budgets.

He said: “It has been clear for some time that there is insufficient funding for universal free school meals for young children and we know schools and caterers are finding it increasingly difficult with the £2.34 they receive from the Government. offering healthy, balanced meals for every meal they serve.

“The news that the Government is increasing that figure is of course welcome, but an extra 7p a day is simply not enough to meet the increased costs schools are facing.”

Shadow Schools Minister Stephen Morgan said: “This Government is once again urging schools and providers to do more with less.

“As costs soar, funding just 7p per meal is pathetic and will do little to ensure children have a healthy, balanced meal.”

It comes after Boris Johnson’s food czar Henry Dimbleby slammed the government for rejecting his call for wider eligibility for nearly a million more universal credit children.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s impossible to say that it isn’t necessary at this point.”

Teachers’ unions and activists have also called for extending entitlements to free school meals to all children from Universal Credit families.

Children in grades 3 and up can only get free school meals if their annual income is less than £7,400, not counting benefits.

The increase in funding for infant meals was announced as supermarkets and sports organizations announced they would support poorer schoolchildren across the country this summer in partnership with the £200million holiday activities and food scheme.

The scheme was launched after footballer Marcus Rashford shamed the Government to help families struggling with holiday hunger during the pandemic.

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