Steve McCabe MP continues calls to protect free school meals during National School Meals Week

Steve McCabe MP is calling for clarity on the future of the free school meals programme for infant pupils on National School Meals Week.

This week is National School Meals Week when 24,000+ schools across England and Wales celebrate all that is great about today’s education catering but with the future of free school meals uncertain Steve has said that he will be pushing for a clear commitment from the government on the programme. With reports that axing universal free school meals is under consideration, just a year after the policy was implemented by the coalition government, Steve has questioned the government’s future plans.

He asked the Secretary of State for Education whether her department plans to change its policy on free school meals for infant school pupils. He received a response from the department stating that the continuation of universal free school meals was a commitment in the Conservative manifesto but also stating that the government is currently conducting a spending review across all its programmes. Steve said that this non-committal, vague response provided him with no assurances that the programme would be protected. He said it was reminiscent of the debacle on tax credits where the Prime Minister promised to protect them on national television during the election only for the Chancellor to axe them in his budget a few weeks later.

Steve recently visited Yardley Wood Community Primary School, which has had new kitchens installed, and saw first-hand how the investment helps deliver the programme to infant pupils as well as accommodating school meal demand for the expanding pupil intake. 30% of a child’s daily nutrient requirement is in a school meal and there are strict controls on sugar, salt, fats etc. Having met the dedicated kitchen staff at Yardley Wood, Steve was impressed by their knowledge on the nutritious element of the meals and their desire to do the best by each child.

Steve McCabe MP said:

“If the reported cuts to free school meals goes ahead, the combination of this and the cuts to tax credits for low income families is likely to have a damaging impact on children from the poorest backgrounds.

“This National School Meals Week we should be celebrating the hard work that schools kitchen staff across the country put in to making sure children get a healthy and nutritious meal, as I’ve seen first hand at Yardley Wood Community School in my own constituency. The government’s lack of commitment on the free school meals programme is worrying. I do not think that it would make sense to reverse the policy when schools have, often at their own cost, recently installed new kitchens to deliver this scheme and I intend push for transparency on this issue in Parliament.”




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