Labour-run Westminster Council has announced that children aged 3 to 14 in Westminster will be able to receive a free school lunch in the most ambitious expansion of the free school meals programme seen in the capital.
The announcement builds on the free lunch programme for Westminster primary pupils which launched by the Labour-run city council in January. The offer will cover three and four year olds across all our early years settings offering free entitlements, and 11–14-year-old resident children at Westminster secondary schools.
Westminster’s additional investment of £2m will complement the existing Government free school meals offer and recent additional funding from Labour’s London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to make 14,000 children eligible for free school meals. In addition, two-year-olds who currently access the Free Early Education Entitlement in the City will also receive targeted help. The ambition is to roll out this offer by September.
Cllr Adam Hug, Labour’s Leader of Westminster City Council, said:
“We want to take some pressure away from families at a time when we know they are already struggling. Some parents go without to fill a lunchbox with whatever is left in the cupboard – however meagre – to ensure their child. It cannot be right that children in one of the richest cities on earth are being left to make do with scraps. We need to see equality built into the system for future generations.
“I am proud we can now offer 14,000 Westminster children the chance of a nutritious lunch. I want Westminster to be a place where children can sit down together in the canteen without the anxiety and stigma of who can afford to eat. That lunch may now be free for those children, but we think the impact it can have on their wellbeing and life chances could be priceless.”
Cllr Tim Roca, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Leisure, said:
“Eating well supports good eating patterns, ensuring children grow and develop and can concentrate on their learning. Teachers know that a child who has eaten properly will study and retain what they learn, so this move pays dividends in the classroom.”
Amie Curtis, Headteacher of Portman Nursery School, said:
“Portman Nursery School and Church Street Family Hub are delighted to hear that Westminster City Council will be offering free school meals to nursery aged children.
“Having access to a substantial meal is an undiluted and direct approach to tackling disadvantage and child poverty. Making this universal however, means that the reach of this initiative will also benefit the hundreds (if not thousands) of children from families on the margins who often are not easily identified by our front line support services. We look forward to working with Westminster City Council and Early Years Colleagues to support the roll out of this initiative.”
Karen Buck MP, Westminster North, welcomed the announcement, saying:
“Fantastic free school meals news from Westminster Council and Adam Hug. This is real support for families and children during this cost of living crisis, adding to the help given by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.”