£18m funding announced for free school meals for infants

Nadhim Zahawi says move comes in response to rising costs.

Free school meals
Free school meals

The funding per pupil for universal infant free school meals will increase, the Government has announced.

The move was announced as supermarkets and sports organisations said they would support poorer pupils across the country this summer in partnership with the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said there would be an £18 million rise in infant free school meals funding.

He said the move was because “we know that more can be done in the face of rising costs”.

Mr Zahawi added that he had chaired a roundtable with representatives from supermarkets and sports organisations on Monday “because Government cannot act alone in how we support the most vulnerable”.

“I’ve seen some incredible support from organisations across the country for our Holiday Activities and Food programme, and I wanted to celebrate the action they are already taking in local communities to support disadvantaged children and their families. Together I have no doubt that we can do more,” he said.

The cost-of-living business tsar, founder of Just Eat David Buttress, was also at the meeting as Mr Zahawi called on organisations to do more to support the holiday scheme, which helped thousands of pupils in summer 2021 and was expanded in last year’s spending review.

The Government said that around £18 million of new funding for universal infant free school meals would help schools to “provide for the 1.25 million children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 with a free, healthy and nutritious lunch, in recognition of the rising cost of living”.

Some organisations are already providing more community support and partnerships, with the organisers behind the Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 tournament working with charities including the holiday activities and food programme to award tickets to selected children and families to attend their games.

The John Lewis Partnership has also committed £1 million to link local shops with the holiday activities and food programme – funding places at activity camps, trips, equipment and food.

The supermarket Morrisons has donated food to holiday clubs in Northumberland, while the Co-op has provided recipe boxes and 2,800 meals to poorer families in Dudley and Shropshire.

More than 600,000 children attended holiday activities and food clubs last summer, which are targeted towards those who are eligible for free school meals.

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