Hammersmith and Fulham Council offers free school meals in bid to fight food poverty

All families are to receive free school meals under a new pilot scheme introduced by town hall chiefs, writes Maya Chavvakula.

The initiative by Hammersmith and Fulham council is a step towards its fight against food poverty.

Food banks in Hammersmith and Fulham saw a 250 per cent rise in demand for parcels, from 4,400 in 2015 to nearly 12,000 last year.

The authority will now fund all primary schools in the borough under its universal breakfast scheme, which is expected to save families around £380 per year for every child in primary school.

The free school lunch scheme will go into full effect in January 2020, with meals being offered to pupils at Fulham College Boys’ School and Woodlane High School, as part of a four-year pilot programme.

Sally Brooks, headteacher at Fulham College Boys’ School, said: “The impact of free school lunches for our students – especially those who are disadvantaged – will be immeasurable.

“Providing the boys with a nutritious meal will not only allow them to compete in an academic environment, but will also give them the nutrition needed to go above and beyond what is required of them at school and actively participate in extra-curricular activities.”

The current threshold for free school meal eligibility is thought to be far too high, and the stigma associated with it is often damaging to children and their families.

Claire Maynard, headteacher at Woodlane High School in White City, said: “We’re delighted to be part of Hammersmith and Fulham’s efforts to tackle child poverty.

The pilot means our most vulnerable pupils can always gain a hot, nutritious meal without stigma.

“While it is widely known that hunger can impact on progress, attainment and behaviour, the impact on families is likely to prove a significant boost in challenging financial times.”

The pilot scheme was launched in response to a survey by University College London which found that 10 per cent of working families live in poverty.

Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan said: “It’s appalling that children are still going to school hungry in one of the world’s wealthiest capitals.

“We must put an end to this. Our schools are now the frontline in our war against hunger.”

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