Thousands of children entitled to free school meals are still going hungry
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 14 June 2012
Thousands of children entitled to free school meals are still going hungry, according to a report out today.
It shows that - for one in seven of the 1.27 million youngsters entitled to free meals – the allowance on their cashless credit cards does not cover the cost of a meal.
Meals can cost up to £2.32p a day in primary schools and up to £2.50p a day in secondaries. However, the allowance can sometimes be less than £2 a day.
“The fact that so many young people said their free school meals allowance isn’t enough money to buy a full meal is disgraceful,” said Dara Farrell, vice-chair of the British Youth Council which co-produced the report with the Child Poverty Action Group.
In addition, around 900,000 youngsters whose parents earn below the poverty line are not entitled to free school meals, the report adds saying it is only available to those whose parents are out of work.
“It’s just not right that half the children growing up below the poverty line are refused free school meals,” said Alison Garnham, chief executive of the CPAG.
Figures show that – of an estimated 2.17 million children whose parents’ income is below the poverty line – around 900,000 do not get free school meals.
The report argues: “WE know that young people growing up in lower income families have substantially poorer educational outcomes than their wealthier peers,” says the report.
“Providing healthy food ... could help close this attainmebt gap.”
It argues that schools whose lunches cost more than the free school meals allowance could be in breach of their legal obligations.
It adds that the introduction of the Universal Credit system in 2013 could be an ideal time to make sure all those children living below the poverty line are entitled to free school meals.
The report comes just a couple of months after research by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers that portions of some school dinners were so small that they were also leaving children hungry. School meal providers were accused of cutting back on quantity to save money so their contracts with cash-strapped local authorities were renewed.
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