Mayor of London ‘steps up’ to fund free school meals for another year – earning praise from Hackney’s City Hall representative

Hackney’s London Assembly Member Sem Moema

Hackney’s City Hall representative has hailed the Mayor of London for “stepping up” to fund free school meals for more than 6,000 children in the borough.

Sadiq Khan plans to extend his universal free school meals policy for a further academic year, helping children who do not qualify for government support.

The new funding will see Hackney offered £3 per meal from September – 18.5 per cent more than the amount it receives from Whitehall.

Sem Moema, London Assembly Member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest, has campaigned for universal free school meals since the start of the cost-of-living crisis.

She said: “This £140 million investment means that families across London will save up to £1,000 per child over two years.

“With the brutal effects of the cost-of-living crisis, I am so pleased that City Hall is stepping up to feed over 6,100 children in Hackney.

“I have long campaigned on the issue of childhood hunger, with reports coming out over several years showing unacceptable levels of food poverty in the capital.

“Children who do not have enough to eat are at risk of poor physical and mental health and will struggle to concentrate in lessons.

“I am thrilled that this genuinely life-changing policy will continue, and that London’s children and families get the support they need”.

The proposal would extend a programme that is currently helping to deliver meals to up to 287,000 children each day and funded more than 17 million meals between September and Christmas last year.

This school year is the first time ever that free school meals have been available universally to all primary-aged pupils in mainstream schools, special schools and pupil referral units in London.

Children in Years 3 to 6 previously only received free school meals if they lived in households on Universal Credit, earning less than £7,400 a year after tax, not including benefits, and regardless of the number of children in the family.

The requirement means that, if not for additional funding from City Hall, many children from working families in poverty would not receive free school meals.

Speaking last autumn, Mayor Khan called on the government to offer more support.

He said: “I’m hugely concerned about the impact that winter will have on Londoners who are already struggling due to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

“Charities are seeing huge demand on their services with families already worrying about how to both eat and heat their homes.”

He added: “We need ministers to use their powers to ensure children aren’t going hungry and help those in need to get through the winter.”