Since September 2014, school meals have been free to all infant school children. We need to work hard to safeguard this policy and demonstrate to government the benefits of making school meals free.
Universal Infant Free School Meals
Amongst the 16 School Food Plan actions was a recommendation; that school meals should be free to all primary school children. It was a wonderful moment when, in September 2013, we learned that this recommendation was to become the 17th action. SFM went on to contribute to an External Reference Group set up by Department for Education to advise on the policy.
In September 2014, following an enormous mobilisation exercise, 98.5% of schools with infants offered a free hot school meal. Take-up of the free meal was over 85% and heads and parents agreed that the benefits to health and savings to the family budget were unequivocal. That's why we jumped into action when, in September 2015, we heard rumours that the policy was in danger of being cut. With campaign partners we produced a series of letters to the Sunday Times from heads, health professionals and food poverty campaigners. This lively campaign was supported by over 40,000 people who signed a parliament petition.
Thankfully the policy survived November's Spending Review but we'll need to remain vigilant, gather evidence and make a convincing case to ensure that UIFSM is here to stay.