Cllr Kaushika Amin, Cabinet member for Children, Education, and Families
Cllr Kaushika Amin, Cabinet member for Children, Education, and Families

Haringey Council’s Cabinet just agreed to expand eligibility for Free School Meals to hundreds more children across the borough.

40% of children in Haringey live below the poverty line, but only one fifth of Haringey children quality for Free School Meals – down from a third in 2010.

With the rising cost of food, the flatlining of wages, and Coronavirus pushing families into poverty, Haringey’s expansion of the Free School Meals policy will support hundreds of children across the borough, making an enormous difference to their lives.

As part of the council’s ambition to create a fairer and more equal borough, the most-in-need groups of children aged 7-10 who are not currently eligible for support under the Government scheme, will be able to apply for FSMs under the new expanded criteria for eligible primary schoolchildren from the Summer term onwards.

Cllr Kaushika Amin, Cabinet Member for Children, Education, and Families said:

This council’s guiding ambition is to create a fairer and more equal borough. I’m
proud that we are now introducing an expansion of free school meals in
Haringey, taking a major step towards meeting that ambition, towards making
education what it should be – a common experience, with no children divided
from their peers by what they do or don’t pay for at school.

34% of families and 40% of children in Haringey live below the poverty line.
Thousands of households in our community struggle with food poverty, fuel
poverty and other basic living costs – and often have to make trade-offs
between each of them. It goes without saying that no one should have to do so.

The cost of food has risen steeply in the last decade, just as wages have
flatlined or even fallen for poorer families. Haringey’s anti-poverty efforts –
coordinated between the council and the community – are designed to lower
costs and raise incomes for our most deprived residents. That’s why the council
has rapidly expanded its food security programme in recent years, why we’ve
expanded payment of the London Living Wage – and it’s why we are choosing
to expand free school meal provision.

The number of children who can claim free school meals from the government
has fallen dramatically in the last ten years. Less than a fifth of Haringey pupils
now receive a free school meal, down from a third in 2010.

Many of those who have lost their eligibility now struggle with the cost of school
meals and some have switched to less healthy packed lunches. Many are living
on the cusp of free school meal eligibility – the ‘just about managing’ families –
who may easily slip into poverty.

This expansion of free school meals is just a first step, but it is also an urgent
step. We are living through a pandemic that has and will continue to push
people out of work and into poverty, with very real consequences for hunger
and nutrition.

So we are expanding free school meals in Haringey above and beyond what the
government offers. We’re starting by targeting groups of children that are most
in need – those in social housing with a parent on Universal Credit (and legacy
benefits), those in private housing receiving Discretionary Housing Payments
and those with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) status. We are also
creating an emergency fund to cover the cost of school meals for children
whose parents fall into short-term financial distress.

At the same time, to help raise the quality and nutrition of school meals we will
start talking to schools about how some, or indeed many Haringey schools,
could possibly begin to procure meals together – potentially through a council-owned provider or a jointly-owned co-operative between the council and local schools, replacing currently outsourced catering contracts with a non-profit
enterprise based in the local community.

Coordinating the procurement of school meals has the potential not just to
improve the bargaining power of schools, lowering costs and raising quality, but
also to build wealth within the community (creating jobs and increasing wages)
by spending local budgets with local suppliers.

The expansion of free school meal eligibility is just one strand of Haringey’s
response to food poverty. A free school meal is of course just one meal in the
day and so our wider efforts to reduce hunger and improve nutrition look at how
we can support families outside of school time too. Our upcoming Food Security
Strategy will set out how we do this – and how we intend to do more.

We are ambitious about what we can achieve as a council, about the impact
that we can make on poverty and inequality in our borough. This policy will
support hundreds of children with free school meals, making an enormous
difference to their lives and as the Cabinet Member for Children, Education and
Families I’m really pleased to support them.

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