Welsh Councillors Call for Free School Meals for All

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 7 min read

Free School Meals for all students in Wales has been called for from a group of councillors. The Anglesey audit committee believe that it would help to remove the stigma, and ensure all children get a healthy meal while at school.

Free School Meals for All to remove stigma

Free School Meals for all would be brilliant for that reason alone. It’s the children who are currently eligible for Free School Meals who would benefit the most from a daily hot nutritious meal. Yet it is these exact students who too often miss out on that meal because of the stigma of receiving them. Being a Free School Meal student is perceived as a way to single your family out as “less well off.”

Students and parents don’t like the association. It’s a shame our society causes those feelings, it shouldn’t be the case, but it’s the reality. And the consequence of that is, students don’t use the benefit. But, if it was all students who received Free School Meals across the board, that stigma would be swiftly eradicated.

Councillor Bob Llewellyn Jones, vice-chairman of the committee, said:

“Over the years, this council has written to the assembly requesting free school meals for all Welsh pupils. I think, like free subscriptions, it would be beneficial for the children as the stigma can be there forever when other kids know who receives the free school meals.”

Giving all children a hot meal everyday puts everyone on a more equal playing field. Students have the energy and nutrition they need to develop and concentrate in their lessons throughout the day.

Free School meals for all feasible?

If money was no object, Free School Meals for all would be an absolute no brainer, but of course that is not the case. Currently, one in six Welsh pupils, around 76,000, are eligible for Free School Meals. So, to provide free meals to all would require the budget to increase around six times over.

Realistically, that is a hard ask. A Welsh Government spokesperson said:

“We want to use public money as effectively as possible and ensure that those who are most in need are supported. Extending eligibility for free school meals to include all children – not just those from the lowest income families – would need greater financial investment. This would mean savings would then have to be made elsewhere.”

Where exactly those savings could come from is the problem, with school budgets across Britain already feeling the pressure. We greatly believe in the power of school meals here though at FasTrak. Increasing uptake of school meals doesn’t just help the school kitchen improve operations but has an effect that can be felt the whole school over.

Related links & news stories

BBC: Free school meals for all pupils ‘would remove stigma’