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Young People Demand Action After 800,000 Children Living In Poverty Denied Free School Meals


Kids eating at school


Young people urge Government to “act now” as more than 160,000 people sign a petition demanding more support for families during the cost of living crisis.



Youth-led movement Bite Back 2030 has launched a powerful new film featuring young people sharing, in their own words, why urgent action is needed to support them and their peers with free school meals.




In the film, young people from across the country talk about the impact that missing out on nutritious, regular school food has on their studies and their health, with Bilal from Manchester saying: “Not being able to have the food that I require to function properly during the day is just something that I’ve learnt to cope with.” Another, Victor from London, shares that “There have been times when my family have gone days without eating”.


The Government must urgently take action by extending eligibility for free school meals to all children from families in receipt of universal credit or equivalent benefits.

The film brings to life figures which show that 800,000 school-age children in England are living in poverty but are not deemed ‘poor’ enough to qualify for free school meals. With the eligibility threshold to receive a free school meal in England set extremely low and remaining static while the cost of living has soared, there is worrying evidence of children being forced to skip meals or search for cheaper junk food options outside the school gates.


Christina Adane, Bite Back 2030’s Campaigner in Residence, said: “The stories we’re hearing from young people across the UK are a sad reminder that families are struggling to afford the basics. The fact we’re one of the wealthiest economies in the world and young people don’t have access to at least one nutritious meal a day is shocking.


“This is really urgent, and we need the Government to step up to prevent children from going hungry during the day. This is an opportunity to put child health first whilst supporting families who are struggling financially.”



160,000 people have signed a petition organised by youth movement Bite Back 2030, demanding that the Government supports families struggling with rising costs by giving more children access to free school meals.



As the cost of living crisis bites, more than 160,000 people have signed a petition organised by the youth movement Bite Back 2030, demanding that the Government supports families struggling with rising costs by giving more children access to free school meals.



In England, all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, receive free school meals. However, from Year 3 onwards, only children living in households with an annual household income that does not exceed £7,400 after tax are eligible.

Last week Conservative Party heavyweight Michael Gove MP backed the campaign saying that in an “ideal world” all primary school pupils would be entitled to free school meals, but in the meantime extending free school meals to every child in a family in receipt of universal credit was the right thing to do.
Michael Gove MP - Photo credit - www.michaelgove.com


Last week Conservative Party heavyweight Michael Gove MP backed the campaign saying that in an “ideal world”, all primary school pupils would be entitled to free school meals, but in the meantime extending free school meals to every child in a family in receipt of universal credit was the right thing to do.









The launch of Bite Back 2030’s film coincides with the release of its More than a Meal report, which shines a spotlight on the impact of free school meals for children from across the country, as well as sharing perspectives from parents and teachers. The report paints a vivid picture of young people's fundamental challenges, including examples of individuals forced outside the school gates for cheaper but less healthy food and students giving away their own food to help their peers.


Healthy eating is, of course, essential for children and young adults. One 16-year-old who took part in a discussion group for the report said: “During exams, I was eating a lot of unhealthy food and drinking energy drinks because it was cheaper and easier than getting a full meal [at school]. I think this affected my performance.”


In the report, Dr Nick Capstick OBE, CEO of the White Horse Federation multi-academy trust and chair of the School Food Review Working Group, said: “Every school day, we see the benefits free school meals provide to those currently entitled. For many it is the only hot, nutritious meal they have in a day. A quality school meal helps improve children’s concentration and behaviour during lessons. We first-hand witness the effect they can have on improving school attendance, children’s health, and academic performance.”


  • The film can be viewed across social media on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

  • Bite Back’s petition calling for an expansion of free school meals can be found here.

  • Bite Back’s report, More than a Meal: The Real Impact of Free School Meals, can be found here.



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