Free school meals set to be extended for another 12 months

Posted: 9 January 2024 | | No comments yet

Mayor of London shares plans to allow all primary school children in London to have access to free school meals throughout the next academic year.

school meals

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced plans for all primary school children in London to continue to receive free school lunches for the next academic year.

The proposed £140 million in funding would be part of the universal free school meals policy, something the London Assembly says is a measure that can save London families up to £1,000 per child.

If set in motion, the new funding would see boroughs offered £3 per meal to help to continue to deliver the meals from September 2024. This is 18.5 per cent higher than the amount they receive from Government, who previously increased its funding from £2.41 to £2.53 per meal this year following the Mayor’s programme.

A reported 287,000 children across London already had access to free school meals during the 2023/2024 academic year. The programme was previously introduced as an emergency measure last year to support families struggling with the cost of living crisis. It previously was planned to end at the end of the academic year in 2024.

The Mayor’s announcement comes at a time where 35 percent of parents or carers of children under 18 reported buying less food and essentials amid the cost of living crisis.

“Delivering free school meals has been one of my proudest moment as Mayor as I have seen the difference it has made to the children receiving them and to their families. I am thrilled to announce my intention to extend this lifeline for families for yet another year,” said Khan.

“I know from personal experience what a difference these meals can make and it’s been fantastic to hear from teachers how much better children are performing and also how much parents and their children have benefited, with parents not having to worry about how to provide their children with a healthy, nutritious meal during the school day. Sadly Londoners continue to struggle with the cost-of-living crisis and with the Government failing to step forward to deliver these meals, we have worked hard to find the money to provide this vital funding for the next academic year,” Khan continued.

All primary school children in London to receive free school meals


A twelve month extension of the programme would reportedly allow “hundreds of thousands of children” who don’t qualify for Government help receive the meals for another year.

According to a report carried out by the Child Poverty Action Group and the National Education Union, providing all children free school meals has a wide range of benefits, including financial and psychological security for parents and improved nutrition and school engagement.

Speaking on the proposed extension, The Food Foundation has shared that it “welcomes” the plans, and believes the decision “shows the importance of our Feed the Future campaign, which we lead in partnership with seven other organisations, calling on central government to provide Free School Meals for the 900,000 children across England living in poverty, who are still not eligible”.

Executive Director of The Food Foundation, Anna Taylor, said: “We are delighted that primary school pupils across London will have access to free school meals for another year. This investment will make a meaningful difference to improving children’s health, wellbeing, educational attainment and school attendance by guaranteeing them a nutritious and filling lunch each day.

“The continuation of this vital lifeline will come as a considerable relief to many families on the verge of breaking point and relieve some of the pressure on tight family budgets. As the transformative potential of Free School Meals is being increasingly recognised at local level, we are calling for the scheme to be expanded nationwide.”

Taylor went on to note that “hundreds of thousands of children across the rest of the country are living in poverty and yet still do not qualify for a Free School Meal.

“Every child unequivocally deserves access to healthy, nutritious food regardless of where they live. As we approach the 2024 general election and metro mayoral election, we urge all national political parties and metro mayors to pledge to do what’s right and ensure that no child in England is left to go hungry at school,” concluded Taylor.