Say Yes to School Food For All 


Can you imagine a school day with no books or desks? We can’t! Just like chairs, desks and toilets, we should give school food to every child. That’s why Caritas Westminster has joined the Children’s Food Campaign and others to “Say Yes to School Food For All”, calling for universal free school meals from nursery all the way up to sixth form.  

The new campaign highlights the breadth of public support in the UK for universal school food provision thanks to an interactive map launched on International School Meals Day, Thursday 9 March. You can add your name, or the name of your organisation to this map here.  

Currently universal school meal provision is only available to children up to age 7 and for children in families on universal credit from year 3. However, the scheme is failing to reach more than 800,000 children across the UK who are living in poverty due to the eligibility threshold being too low. Hundreds of thousands of students are turning up to school hungry or with empty lunch boxes. These include the ones described as “seagulls” by a chaplain at a Catholic school in the diocese who told us of the students who “don’t have money or food for lunch. They wait around until the end and then take other pupils’ leftovers.”  

Staff members from schools who have received our Supermarket Vouchers have reported a huge increase in children receiving free school meals, and still many are coming to school hungry and yet are not eligible for free meals. 

The “Say Yes” campaign argues that children should not be means tested in the middle of the school day and that lunch and healthy food provision should be seen as an intrinsic part of the education system. Healthy, nutritious food is critical for children’s concentration and learning at school. A campaign film created in a local London primary school draws a comparison with the provision of school chairs, desks and toilets, and imagines a day where these were also means-tested. 

Barbara Crowther, Campaign Coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign comments:  

“We believe in an education system free at the point of access. We don’t means-test children for pencils or desks, so why for food? We don’t means-test adults or children when it comes to hospital and prison meals, so it’s perverse that we still insist on this for our children. Many other countries around the world have already realised this and now seeing huge benefits of healthy meals for all.  
“A good, healthy education is the foundation of our nation’s future prosperity. Providing free school meals for all has been shown to improve educational learning, reduce levels of obesity and lead to long-term improved earnings and economic contribution. Recent economic analysis by PWC shows a return of £1.71 for every pound invested, and potential economic return of up to £100 billion over a 20-year period. It’s time to stop saying no to our nation’s children, and say yes instead to healthy school food for all.”  

Jared Brading, Executive Headteacher, Federation of Sacred Heart & St Mary’s RC Primary Schools, Battersea, LB Wandsworth said:  

“Hot, healthy school meals are so important to children and their families. We see the results of a quality lunch in the classroom: better fed children become better performing pupils.” 

Free school meals will be offered to all primary school pupils across London for a single year from September 2023 under plans by Mayor Sadiq Khan.   

The House of Commons will debate a Bill on Friday 24th March, which proposes that school meals should be made available for free to every primary school child in England. Caritas Westminster has signed an open letter to the Prime Minister in support of this  as a first step towards free meals for every student in primary and secondary schools, right up to the end of year 13. 

Join the School Food for All campaign now. 

You may also be interested in: 

Warm spaces and warmer welcomes 

Caritas Westminster’s on-going supermarket voucher scheme 

How schools in Westminster Diocese responded to the needs of their community during the Covid pandemic. 


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