The Anglican Archbishop of York is among those backing calls from charities to make sure that all children living with poverty can get a free school meal.
He joins a wide range of civic, trade union, policy and church groups in highlighting the issue. Among the faith-based organisations supporting the research and initiative are the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Anglican Bishop of Truro, CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network), Catholic Education Service, Ekklesia, Liberal Judaism, the Methodist Church, Oxford Anglican Diocese, and the United Reformed Church.
More than half of all school children living in poverty - 1.2 million - are missing out on free school meals. 700,000 are not entitled to free school meals at all, according to the Children’s Society’s latest report, Fair and Square.
Yet the report shows that 91 per cent of UK adults believe that all children living in poverty should receive free school meals. It is estimated that 2.2 million school children are living in poverty in England alone.
Dr John Sentamu, who earlier this week addressed the Church Urban Fund annual conference on 'Tackling Poverty Together', commented: “I welcome The Children’s Society’s Fair and Square report into the provision of good quality free school meals. Nutritional meals are vital for all low income families to ensure that children living in poverty get a healthy lunch at school, without burdening an overstretched family budget.”
Free school meals provide vital financial support for low-income families, argues the charity. For almost a third of children, school lunch is their main meal of the day.
The Children’s Society’s Fair and Square campaign exposes that eligibility for free school meals also has serious ramifications for families in low paid work and those looking to move back into work.
The Children’s Society’s are asking people to sign its petition asking the government to make sure that all children living in poverty can get a free school meal at http://action.childrenssociety.org.uk/fair-and-square
Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, which is backing the initiative, said: "Good nutrition isn't a luxury, its an essential. Without decent food, health problems will multiply and millions will remain trapped in impoverished lives."
He added: "Proper school meals for children from working families shouldn't be denied to those on low incomes and with limited budgets.
"Given changes to the benefits system and cuts effecting the most vulnerable, the Children's Society is right to identify free school meals for those on Universal Credit as an axial issue. This is a matter of justice, not charity; common interest, not profligacy," he concluded.
* Follow 'Fair and Square' on Ekklesia - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/fairandsquare
* The report and a summary are available here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16555