Feeding young minds – H&F launching free school lunches

First came free breakfasts for school pupils in H&F, now we’re launching free lunches for all in two secondary schools.

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Students from Fulham College Boys’ School eating lunch in their school cafeteria

First came free breakfasts for school pupils in Hammersmith & Fulham, now we’re launching free lunches for all in two secondary schools.

The pilot scheme will see pupils at Fulham College Boys’ School (soon to be Fulham Cross Academy) and Woodlane High School given nutritious and filling meals to help them grow, as part of a four-year pilot programme.

“It is a terrible indictment of our society that children are going hungry in 2020,” said Cllr Larry Culhane, H&F Cabinet Member for Children and Education. “By rolling-out free meals, we are helping give our students the best possible start in life – a well-fed mind is also an active mind.”

The scheme will be paid for entirely by community contributions negotiated by the council taking a tough approach with property developers.

Video: Free school lunches for all

“Over the past few months, we’ve been working with the schools and catering partners to get everything ready to go for the New Year, including reviewing menu options and installing new equipment at Woodlane,” said Cllr Culhane.

The scheme will be the first of its kind to launch in England and Wales, and the council is working with social research organisation NatCen to monitor the pilot and ensure it reaches children most in need.

Sally Brooks, Headteacher at Fulham College Boys’ School, said: “The impact of free school lunches for our students – especially those who are disadvantaged – will be immeasurable.

“Providing the boys with a nutritious meal will not only allow them to compete in an academic environment, but will also give them the nutrition needed to go above and beyond what is required of them at school and actively participate in extra-curricular activities.”

And Claire Maynard, Headteacher at Woodlane High School in White City, said:

“We’re delighted to be part of H&F’s efforts to tackle child poverty. The pilot means our most vulnerable pupils can always gain a hot, nutritious meal without stigma.

“While it is widely known that hunger can impact on progress, attainment and behaviour, the impact on families is likely to prove a significant boost in challenging financial times.”

Starting the day the nutritious way

In 2019 we partnered with charity Magic Breakfast to bring free breakfasts in borough primary schools.

A recent survey of Londoners found that 400,000 children in London are at risk of food insecurity. H&F’s local foodbanks gave out 11,706 three-day parcels in 2018 – an increase from 4,400 parcels in 2014-15.

“The national free school meal system is not working,” said Cllr Culhane. “The threshold for families to receive school meals is too high, and the stigma of receiving a means-tested school meal is damaging to children and their families.

“A hungry child cannot concentrate and will miss out on important lessons if not given anything to eat. And it’s intolerable that someone’s success in life should hinge on something as essential as basic nutrition.”

How breakfasts work

H&F Council has partnered with charity Magic Breakfast to develop its universal breakfast offer in local primary schools.

Primary schools and nurseries can apply for funding and support to allow for the provision of free breakfasts aimed at tackling child hunger. 

Magic Breakfast is meeting these schools, providing expert advice and guidance on how to set up breakfast offers and increase outreach to reach those pupils at risk of hunger. This is further supported by an offer of healthy breakfast foods, delivered directly to the school and a council grant to cover any additional school costs of the provision.

The Magic Breakfast contract will initially run for two years, with an option to extend for a further two years.

Founded in 2003, Magic Breakfast provides healthy breakfast food and expert support to over 1,800 schools nationally. In March 2018, Magic Breakfast and Family Action were awarded a two-year contract by the Department for Education to set up or improve breakfast provision in the most disadvantaged areas of England.

What we’re doing to fight poverty in H&F

Some of the things we've been doing to fight poverty in H&F include:

  • The H&F independent Poverty and Worklessness Commission was set up to find the causes of poverty in the borough, and to develop bold new ways of tackling them.
  • Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank provides help and support to those in need in the borough. That includes emergency food parcels, and advice or referrals to other organisations to help families in food poverty. The Foodbank receives funding from H&F Council.
  • Rose Vouchers is a scheme to help people on low incomes to get fresh fruit and vegetables from local traders. It also shares tips on healthy eating.
  • The Work Zone is a dedicated service helping people to secure jobs. Based at Shepherds Bush Library at Westfield London, the Work Zone team helps jobseekers gain the right skills and qualifications needed and valued by employers, and offers jobseekers a clear advantage in their search for employment.
  • Our goal is for there to be nobody sleeping rough in our borough. The independent H&F Rough Sleeping Commission was established to help meet this vision by developing ground-breaking new policies in this area.
  • Hundreds of new homes are being built, and many more improved, for local people. We are presently delivering more genuinely affordable homes, to rent and to buy, than at any point in a decade.

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