The Children's Society's 'Fair and Square' campaign, launched today (19 April 2012), aims to ensure that all children in need of a free school meal receive one. We are delighted that Ekklesia and a range of other civic, charity, religious and policy bodies are supporting this important initiative.
Free school meals are a crucial entitlement for families living in poverty. These meals help to ensure that children from the lowest income families receive warm, nutritious food in the middle of the day.
More than half of all school-age children living in poverty in England aren't getting free school meals. These 1.2 million children may not be eating a single nutritious meal all day. Please sign our petition (link below) to ensure that our poorest children get the free school meals they need to thrive.
Why are school meals important? Because they can provide important health benefits and contribute to the education of the children that receive them.
As presented in our Fair and Square report, also published today, the evidence shows that eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime has important health and educational benefits for children. The meals can improve their diet and increase their concentration during afternoon lessons.
The meals can also help children to develop healthy eating habits and can potentially decrease health inequalities.
Now is the time to act
Over the coming months the government will address the future of school meals as they overhaul the current welfare system.
This presents a unique opportunity to influence and improve the delivery of free school meals so that they are made available to children in low-income working families.
Not only would this be good for young people, there is overwhelming support for allowing children in low income working families to receive free school meals.
A poll conducted by GFK NOP on our behalf found that more than 90 per cent of people believe that free school meals should be available for all children in poverty, including those in working families. (Details of the poll are in our report.)
* Sign the petition here: http://action.childrenssociety.org.uk/page/s/fair-and-square-free-school... 
* Organisations, including faith ones, that back 'Fair and Square': http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-you-can-do/campaign-join/campaig... 
* A summary and full copy of the report: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16555 
(c) Nigel Verndall is director of church partnerships at the Children's Society.
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