WHY FREE SCHOOL MEALS ARE SO IMPORTANT
The importance of school meals has once again hit the headlines. Last week, a group of 11 educational unions and institutions sent to a letter to Chancellor, Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi calling for the government to make free school meals available to all children of families receiving universal credit. They stated that vulnerable children not receiving free school meals were facing a ‘barrier to learning’. And we could not agree more.
For over 15 years, we have been preparing and cooking thousands of hot, healthy school meals for local school children. And in our experience, these meals have the power to completely transform a child’s life. And here’s why:
A helping hand as the cost of living spirals
For some children their free school meal will be the only hot meal they get that day, it may even be their only meal. For families of primary school aged children their free school meals can save them as much as £450 a year – that’s almost £40 a month. For those in secondary school, the figures will be higher. By giving all children from families on universal credit a free school meal, we will not only help financially, we will help emotionally as parents can rest a little easier, knowing their child has had at least one hearty, nutritious meal. The sacrifices some parents are currently having to make in order to feed their children is just heartbreaking. We need to do more.
They improve behaviour
When children are hungry – when any of us are hungry for that matter – and blood sugar levels drop, tempers flare, we all become less tolerant and tend to be more emotional. This can dramatically affect behaviour, and children are more likely to play up and cause trouble. A proper hot, nutritionally balanced meal in the middle of the day will nourish them and top up their blood sugar levels for longer, helping them to stay calm and behave better. It will keep them out of trouble and enjoying school more.
They improve concentration and children’s ability to learn
As parents, we know that hungry children are often tired and emotional and easily distracted – we’ve all been there. They will find it hard to concentrate for any length of time and difficult to take in and retain information. A healthy, well balanced meal is proven to give them the slow release energy they need to stay focused and learn effectively.
They give children the nutrients they need to grow an develop
School meals in the UK are very carefully monitored and the nutritional value of each recipe has be approved before it can be served. A well balanced meal at school can provide so much of the good nutrients our bodies and minds need to grow and develop. We’re seeing an increasing number of children having to take time off school due to ill health and poor oral hygiene as a result of poor diets. A nutritionally nourishing meal at school will do so much more to redress this trend and give children what they need to grow and develop healthily.
They help introduce healthy eating habits at a young age
This is a huge one for us and why we put some much effort into making sure each of our meals are nutritionally balance, are packed full of local, seasonal veg and only ever include really good quality meat. We want to encourage children to make healthy eating habits now and take this knowledge with them through their lives. By introducing healthy eating habits early on, we believe we can reduce the chances of them having poor diets later on in life, reducing the risk of diet related diseases. This is why we want to see the government introduce free school meals for all primary school children not just those up to Year 2. Wales and Scotland have committed to do this, so why not England?
They’re just really comforting
This one may not be the most scientific of reasons, but for us it’s just as important. When it’s cold and you’re tired, a warm family favourite like lasagne or a roast can be like a bit of a hug in the middle of the day. It feeds the soul and for many kids they just really need that. A sandwich and a packet of crisps just doesn’t hit the mark on this one.