The Children’s Society-led Fair and Square campaign and 38 Degrees have joined forces to call on the government to make free school meals available to all children in poverty.
This week the two organisations teamed up with school children to hand in over 90,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street. The children who took part in the petition hand-in are 12-13 year olds students from Conisborough College in South London.
Every day, more than half of the 2.2 million school children living in poverty in England miss out on a free school meal. Of these, 700,000 are not even entitled to one – often because their parents work, regardless of how little they earn.
Free school meals can help to lift children out of poverty, advocates say. The Children’s Society estimates that 140,000 children have already been moved out of poverty by receiving them. Making them available to all children in need would help keep the government on target to meet its target to end child poverty by 2020.
The Children’s Society’s Fair and Square campaign – (www.childrenssociety.org.uk/fairandsquare), backed by Ekklesia and others – is calling for every child in poverty to get a free school meal.
With the introduction of changes to the benefit system under Universal Credit, the government has a unique opportunity to change policy to make this happen, campaigners say.
Lily Caprani, Director of Communications and Policy at The Children’s Society, declared: “Nearly three quarters of teachers told us they are seeing children in school with no lunch, and no way to pay for one. We know from the families we work with up and down the country that parents are struggling to put food on the table.”
“Tens of thousands of people have joined our call for the government to take this practical – and very straightforward – step towards ending child poverty,” Ms Caprani said.
38 Degrees’ Executive Director, David Babbs, commented: “It is outrageous that any child in poverty isn’t getting a free school meal, let alone over a million. 38 Degrees members have come together in their tens of thousands to help fix this injustice – and make sure these children, the very poorest and most vulnerable in our society, get at least one decent meal a day.”
Six in 10 children living in poverty are in low-income working families. Government cuts are pushing more children into poverty. As it recently admitted, its plan to cap benefit rises at one per cent will push 200,000 more children into poverty.
* Fair and Square: children in poverty and free school meals - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16555