Hackney Council welcomes the extension of the Universal Free School Meals programme
Hackney Council's response to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's announcement that primary school children in state-funded schools in London will continue to get free school meals in 2024/25.
Mayor of Hackney Caroline Woodley and Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Education, Young People and Children’s Social Care said:
We were pleased to learn that the Mayor of London has decided that the universal free school meals offer for primary school children in all state-funded schools in London will continue in the next academic year. This funding will provide a welcome respite for Hackney families affected by the cost of living crisis.
Ensuring that children have each and every one of their basic needs met should be the absolute priority in any society. Every child has the right to good, healthy food - this is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Yet the start of 2024 sees many families in the UK continuing to struggle to find affordable, nutritious everyday meals for their children.
Hackney remains one of the most deprived areas of the country. Just in the last five years, the number of children in need in Hackney has increased significantly, with almost half of our children living in poverty once housing is taken into account. Many more families are struggling to pay for their basic needs, such as food and energy. It’s more important than ever for local authorities to do everything in our power to find urgent, practical solutions to what may be the biggest challenges faced by families in a generation.
Feeding our children with affordable, healthy and sustainable meals has been a long-term priority for Hackney Council, and in the last year we have taken more steps to tackle food insecurity and inequalities in the borough, including by passing the ‘Right to Food’ motion in January 2023.
This year’s funding from the Mayor of London has given us welcome space to look at long-term and lasting solutions to tackle food poverty in education. As part of this work, a special Council task force looked at some examples of best practice and proposed practical solutions to provide healthy and sustainable school meals for children in poverty. This was backed by a £300,000 targeted investment from the Council, which was allocated to a mix of initiatives aimed at helping schools deliver more affordable, healthier and more nutritious meals to children who need them most.
We know that only by working together with our partners we can find the right approach to ensure we make the most out of the funding we have available, and continue to provide quality, nutritious and sustainable food for our children, in a time of persistent financial pressures across the borough and the country.
This year, based on Council data, the Mayor of London’s universal free school meal offer is supporting up to 6,309 pupils in Hackney.
Families who are eligible for free school meals (FSM) still need to register to ensure they receive all the benefits they are entitled to. Their schools will then receive pupil premium funding, worth £1,455 to schools for each child. This will give schools more money for activities such as educational trips, booster classes, after-school clubs and more.
Registering ensures families receive other benefits they may be entitled to, like food vouchers during the holidays or access to the holiday activity fund. Parents and carers can apply easily via the Hackney Education website.
Hackney residents can find out more about what other help and support is available via the Hackney Money Hub.