Jamie Oliver has called for free school meals to be extended across England following their universal roll-out to London’s state-funded primary schools for the new school year.
The celebrity chef and long-time child nutrition campaigner insisted it was “time to put the health of our children first” and that it be “placed above politics”.
His comments come as state-funded primary schools prepare to roll out free school meals for all pupils for the 2023/24 school year.
A survey suggests the majority of Tory and Labor voters favor extending free school meals to more children in England.
Only a few children across the country currently qualify for free school meals, including those whose parents are on Universal Credit or whose household income is less than £7,400 a year.
A study carried out for the School Food Review group, a coalition of 30 organizations including charities, education bodies, unions and academics, found that 82% of potential Labor voters and 53% of potential Conservative voters supported the immediate extension of free school meals to all children. families benefiting from universal credit, followed by a future extension to all students.
The survey conducted in late June and early July of 3,011 citizens across England found that 71% of all respondents believe the current income threshold is inadequate or should not exist at all.
Oliver is one of the supporters of the Feed the Future campaign, which calls for a multi-stakeholder commitment to extend eligibility for free school meals to all children in England. It is supported by a coalition of organizations including the National Education Union and Save the Children.
Oliver said: “We know that feeding young minds with nutritious food is an investment in their future and boosts our economy and our health. Sadiq Khan recognized this by offering all primary school children a free school meal and now we need politicians from all parties to put children’s health before politics and act now.
The poll suggests that 65% of potential Labor voters would be more likely to vote for the party if it pledged to extend free school meals, while 23% of 2019 Conservative voters and 18% of those with the intending to vote Conservative said they would consider changing their position. to work accordingly.
A government spokesperson said: “More than a third of pupils in England now receive free school meals at educational institutions, up from one in six in 2010 and we have extended eligibility several times to more groups of children than any other government in the last six months. century.
“This includes the introduction of new eligibility criteria for families receiving Universal Credit, to ensure that even more children are eligible for a free school meal.”