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Poll highlights majority of parents want universal expansion of free school meals

18th Mar 2024 - 07:00
Expansion of free school meals
A new poll released by the Children’s Food Campaign to celebrate International School Meals Day (14th March) has found that 89% of the parents surveyed want to see the immediate expansion of free school meals to every child living in poverty.

Conducted by Savanta, on 2,039 parents across the UK, the poll found that three quarters of parents (75%) would like all children to have access to a free school meal, regardless of their background.

Responding to the findings, Children’s Food campaign manager Barbara Crowther, said: “Healthy school food is absolutely the number one priority when it comes to how parents want the Government to support them in getting children to eat healthily. Politicians should be in no doubt – parents want the Government to make it easier for children to access school meals, and for ensuing the quality and nutrition of what is on offer.”

Nearly eight in ten (77%) parents would like to see a progressive, phased expansion of school meals to all children. The poll also found that over eight in ten (81%) parents support automatic registration for free school meals for all entitled pupils, instead of the current application system.

Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food MP Sharon Hodgson added: “The will of the public is clear - parents, pupils and schools overwhelmingly support policies to expand student eligibility to free school meals. After the last two years of cost-of-living-crisis, we understand how school food acts as a lifeline for millions of children across the UK, securing them a hot, nutritious meal to keep them healthy and engaged at school.

“An estimated 900,000 children living in poverty aren't eligible for free school meals at all, and an estimated 200-250,000 children who are eligible aren't registered. Our school food system is not working, schools and caterers don't have the funding to deliver food that meets the school food standards, and too many children are missing out. The polling is clear - this is a priority for parents, and we need Government action."

Written by
Edward Waddell