GE17: Food for thought

Free school meals have been compulsory for over 100 years. In 2017, are we really going to vote to take a guaranteed meal out of children's mouths?

GE17: Food for thought

Tea, scones, fish and chips - food is an important part of the British identity. So this election I want to ensure that for those families who can't even afford to feed their children, free meals provided within the safety of school remain that way.

Free school meals were made compulsory in 1914, and in the 100 years since have given the guarantee of at least one balanced meal to low income families each school day. The provision of food not only addresses the issue of a rumbly tummy but allows children to concentrate to their full capacity, further granting them the ability to challenge themselves academically, achieve higher grades and have the opportunity to apply for a greater pool of careers. It's a no brainer for reducing the cycle of poverty through limited education.

Currently costing £600 million a year, the 2017 Conservative manifesto proposes scrapping the successful 100 year old initiative for a more economically efficient plan. The estimated lower £60 million plan for free breakfasts for all school pupils has been well received in trials, with participants noticing a positive change in performance levels of children under their care. However as with all estimated budgets, this figure has been deemed a fairytale by the think tank Education Lab, who estimate a more realistic figure of £400 million when factors such as employing a teaching assistant to run these breakfast clubs are included.

And all this to the tune of each meal costing no more than 6.8p, if original Conservative plans are carried out, meaning the purpose of providing nutritious, balanced meals for children will be lost.

Charles Dickens would be rolling in his grave. Gruel for breakfast anyone?

If money's the motivation for the Tory's proposal of a new meal scheme, then they've got it all wrong. Aisling Kirwan, founding director of Grub Club, an initiative that provides cooking lessons for pupils in poorer areas, argues that nutritious meals cost 25p on average - and that's just for an upgrade from gruel to a small bowl of porridge.

With a more generous cost of 50p per portion in mind for fruit which would add nutritional value to go with that porridge, the figure is more likely to be around £723.9 million a year. This is significantly higher than the current running costs of free school meals that seem to have been fulfilling their purpose remarkably for 100 years and counting.

Numbers aside, the idea of changing a British institution that allows disadvantaged children a greater chance to achieve what they are fully capable of, could cause the face of our well worn identity to crumble. We need to recognise our responsibility for disadvantaged children, or else it's the NHS next up on the Tory hit list.


Maddie Drury

Maddie Drury Contributor

Maddie is currently studying History and Journalism at Goldsmiths University. Like a 40-year-old man takes to running, Maddie has recently become obsessed with learning Spanish.

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 8 June 2017, 11:43 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    I really don't understand why this is part of the Tory manifesto?

  • Bhavesh Jadva

    On 8 June 2017, 20:14 Bhavesh Jadva Voice Team commented:

    Such a needless proposal. Many of the cost saving policies that are called cruel have been justified because of the universal benefit for all economic citizens but it's impossible to justify literally taking the food out of poor children's mouth for the sake of saving money as anything but criminally heinous.

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