Jamie Oliver has demanded free school meals are given to more children as research shows the majority of both Labour and Tory voters back this. The celebrity chef, who has long campaigned on child food and nutrition issues, insisted it is “time to prioritise our children’s health”.
Polling shows a whopping 82% of prospective Labour voters and more than half of prospective Conservative voters (53%) are in favour of extending eligibility immediately to all those from families receiving Universal Credit, followed by a future expansion to all school children. Mr Oliver said: “It’s great to see that voters across all parties want to put child health first. It’s time to prioritise our children’s health. We know that nourishing young minds with nutritious food is an investment in their future, boosts our economy and our health. Sadiq Khan has recognised this by giving all primary school children a free school meal and now we need politicians across all parties to put child health above politics and act now.”
Currently only children from households with an income below £7,400 a year after tax and benefits are eligible. This has not increased since 2018 despite prices rising and means an estimated 900,000 schoolchildren living in poverty are not eligible. Keir Starmer so far has refused to back free school meals for all primary school children. He faces calls from within the party, with leaders in London and Wales committing to the measure.
The polling, which was commissioned by the School Food Review Working Group, found 23% of 2019 Conservative voters and 18% of those who intend to vote Tory at the next election would be more likely to switch to Labour if it adopted a free school meals policy. The survey of 3,011 members also suggested almost two thirds (65%) of prospective Labour voters would be more likely to vote for the party if they committed to extending free lunches.
Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation, said: “This research has an instructive new finding. People now believe that children eating well in school to support their learning is so important that it would affect which party they vote for in the next election. It’s a clear signal that the status quo is both unfair and damaging, and voters want it fixed.”
Anna Garrod, Policy & Influencing Director of Impact on Urban Health, added: “This research confirms that Free School Meals expansion is a key issue for voters and a move to support it would appeal to swing and undecided voters. We urge policymakers to take this opportunity to create a more equitable school food system across the country – to support all children to access healthy, nutritious food, and in doing so build a healthier society and more resilient economy.”News TIOB News