As you may have seen last week, Theresa May launched her Conservative Manifesto which said that, if elected, she will remove free school lunches from millions of primary children. It’s a disgrace!
The plan to end the Universal Infant Free School Meals policy (UIFSM) makes no sense. In just four short years since it launched, this policy has had a huge impact – over 85% of kids in their first three years of primary school now eat a healthy school lunch, compared to less than 45% in 2013(1). That’s something to be really proud of, so why stop it!?
Theresa May and her team say that they’ll replace school lunches with breakfasts. Don’t get me wrong, increasing the number of breakfast clubs in schools is a great idea and one I fully support. But, crucially, it can’t be breakfast versus lunch.
Not all kids will be at school in time for a free breakfast, but they will ALL be there for lunch. Eating a proper lunch has positive effects on kids’ diets and on their academic performance. A recent trial showed that if you give free meals to all children, it’s the poorer kids that improve the most. I can’t understand why Theresa May and her party have chosen to ignore this, especially when it’s the kids that need it most who are going to suffer. Meanwhile, only 1% of packed lunches meet the nutritional guidelines for school food – and without these free school meals, the number of kids eating packed lunches is certain to increase.
The Conservatives also say that children who need free school lunch will still get it but, alarmingly, two thirds of children living in poverty do not qualify for free school meals – without these meals, they’ll miss out, every day. This simply isn’t fair and I don’t believe it is the right thing to do.
This isn’t just my opinion – ask any head teacher and this is what they’ll tell you:
“We have found at Charlton Manor that behaviour has improved significantly since the introduction of healthier meals. We have also found that it impacts on attainment. Of our pupil premium cohort, those who have a school lunch perform better than those with a packed lunch. For children, mealtime experiences are crucial. Not only does it provide the right nutrition, but it allows the kids to socialise and build confidence” Tim Baker, Head Teacher at Charlton Manor school in Greenwich
If we want to build a strong and stable generation, we have to feed them!
Help me make noise so that everyone understands this! With social media, it has never been easier to get your voice heard. There are plenty of opportunities for all of us to ask politicians exactly how they plan to make sure our kids get a proper school lunch, and how they plan to make childhood health a priority. I will certainly be asking these questions! Check out the list below of TV and radio debates and Tweet your questions in!
And I want to hear from you, too. What’s the situation in your school? Which kids will miss out? Tell me what’s happening in your community. Tweet @foodrev or email my team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, check out and share this Channel 4 news video from Friday.
Here are the details that you need to get involved in the debates happening over the next two weeks.
22 May, 7pm, BBC One: Andrew Neil interview with Theresa May. Tweet your question to @afneil
23 May, 7pm, BBC One: Andrew Neil interview with Paul Nuttall. Tweet your question to @afneil
24 May, 7pm, BBC One: Andrew Neil interview with Tim Farron. Tweet your question to @afneil
25 May, 7pm, BBC One: Andrew Neil interview with Nicola Sturgeon. Tweet your question to @afneil
26 May, 7pm, BBC One: Andrew Neil interview with Jeremy Corbyn. Tweet your question to @afneil
29 May, 8.30pm, Sky News and Channel 4: May v Corbyn Live: The Battle for Number 10, a special joint 90-minute programme between Sky News and Channel 4. The show will open with a studio audience Q&A hosted by Sky’s Political Editor, Faisal Islam, before Jeremy Paxman interviews the two party leaders one after the other. Tweet your question to @faisalislam @JeremyPaxman
31 May, 7.30pm to 9pm, BBC One: The BBC Election Debate live, moderated by Mishal Husain, with “spokespeople” from all seven major political parties, but not necessarily leaders. Tweet your question to @MishalHusainBBC
2 June, time TBC, BBC One: Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn take part in a BBC Question Time special hosted by David Dimbleby, but will not appear side by side. Tweet your question to @bbcquestiontime @daviddimble
4 June, 10.30pm to 11pm in England (11pm to 11.30pm in Wales), BBC One: Election Questions to UKIP leader Paul Nuttall @BBCOne
4 June, 11pm to 11.30pm in England (10.30pm to 11pm in Wales), BBC One: Election Questions to Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood @BBCOne
6 June, 10.40pm, BBC One (and live on BBC Radio 1 and the BBC News Channel at 9pm): Newsbeat Youth debate, hosted by Tina Daheley, featuring “leading politicians” from all seven major political parties. Tweet your question to @BBCNewsbeat @TinaDaheley
9 June, 8.30pm to 9.30pm, BBC One: Final Question Time Election Special live from London. Tweet your question to @bbcquestiontime
9 June 6am to 9.25am, ITV: Good Morning Britain extended programme, hosted by Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan, with reporting from political editor Ranvir Singh. Tweet your question to @GMB @piersmorgan @susannareid100 @ranvir01
Footnotes: (1) School Food Trust, National School Meal survey