Two weeks into a landmark anti-poverty scheme which is benefiting every child in Croydon currently at a state primary school, and there’s been not a peep about it from the borough’s Tory Mayor, Jason Perry.
There’s not a word to be found on the Croydon Council website, either. But from the start of this school year a fortnight ago, every primary aged child in the borough has been having a hot school meal every weekday in a flagship policy from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
The Mayor’s office says the £135million programme will save parents upwards of £440 per child over the course of a year. The scheme is, at least initially, on a one-year trial basis.
The initiative has been welcomed by food campaigners and parents as largely beneficial, as it promises to reduce health inequalities and help students do better in school.
In England, the children of families whose household income falls below £7,400 are already eligible for free school meals. The government also provides funding for free school meals for all pupils up to Year 2 (aged six to seven). Mayor Khan’s initiative extends that to an additional 287,000 pupils, with Croydon being one of the boroughs with the largest number of children at primary schools.
Nearly a quarter of households with children in Britain have reported experiencing food insecurity, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the Food Foundation.
Before the scheme began, school meals would cost £13.75 per week per child. Many parents and carers, on tightening budgets, opted out and often switched to packed lunches.
The Mayor’s initiative is offering funding of £2.65 per meal (£13.25 per week). This is higher than the £2.53 offered by the government’s universal infant free school meals programme this academic year, but that number hasn’t kept up with inflation in the nine years since its inception.
Both numbers pale in comparison to what some caterers say it costs them to provide a meal. Michael Hales, managing director at Juniper Ventures, a local authority trading company in Newham, told the Financial Times that to meet national food standards and pay a London living wage, each primary school meal he produces costs £2.99.
Mayor Khan’s policy has been welcomed by some of the country’s top chefs.
Jamie Oliver, who has long campaigned for better school meals for the nation’s youngsters, said, “Nourishing our kids with nutritious and delicious food at lunchtime is an investment in their future, boosts our economy and sets them up for a healthier and more productive life.
“Sadiq Khan has recognised this by giving all primary school children a free school meal and now we need politicians across all parties to put child health above politics and act now.”
And Tom Kerridge, another TV chef, said, “So many families are struggling to get by and particularly worry about how to feed their children in the current climate, so the Mayor’s expansion of free school meals will make a huge difference to them.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “I know from personal experience what a lifeline free school meals can be and I’m immensely proud that our unprecedented funding means that hundreds of thousands of children across London’s primary schools are now benefiting from them.
“For the first time ever all children at state primary schools in every borough will be enjoying a free lunch at school every day – helping families struggling with the cost-of-living and ensuring children don’t go hungry.
“I will continue to do all I can to support Londoners as we build a better and more prosperous city for all.”
The overwhelming response from teaching staff and from parents and carers has been positive and welcoming.
Funny that gobshite Perry, Croydon’s piss-poor Mayor has, for once, had nothing to say…
- Inside Croydon – as seen on TV! – has been delivering local community news since 2010. 3million page views per year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
- If you want real journalism, actually based in the borough, you should consider paying for it. Please sign up today. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- We offer FREE ads to community groups when they have members who are paid subscribers to Inside Croydon
- Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine