Jamie Oliver Is Right: More Children Need Free School Meals

800,000 children living in poverty in England aren’t eligible for help.

jamie oliver

by Lydia Spencer-Elliott |
Published on

To be eligible for free school meals in the UK, parents must earn under £7,400—and families who earn more than that threshold are denied help by the government. As a result, 800,000 children who are living in poverty aren’t eligible. And this week, chef and food campaigner Jamie Oliver called out the government for this crucial gap in services.

Calling for the threshold for free school meals to be lowered, he said on BBC’s Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘If you earn over £7,400, you won’t get that free school lunch. But I think we’d all agree that there’s a massive gap between the means test for free school lunches as it stands and universal credit.

‘I think what the government are saying is universal credit tethers off and can go up to sort of £30,000 to £40,000, but really we’re talking about the bulk of them being around £14,000 per household,’ he added.

‘If they were to open the threshold of who would be allowed to have a free school lunch, that would also inject funds into the system that would also really help to guarantee a much better service across 26,000 schools in the country,’ Jamie said.

Previously, Jamie only managed to get Boris Johnson to see his point of view after the PM was in intensive care with Covid-19. ‘He had to nearly die and have a child to put him in the frame of mind to do the right thing,’ Jamie claimed.

Meanwhile, the current prime minister Liz Truss voted against extending the free school meals programme in 2020. But Jamie has said he’s ‘up for the fight,’ to work against her opinion. ‘We owe it to every child,’ he said. ‘Kindness needs to be injected through [the Conservative party] if they’ve got any chance.’

‘I don’t know if they’ve got it in them to show this kindness,’ he continued. ‘Being productive and pushing forward of course – but at what cost?’

The Conservatives have since responded to Jamie’s call to action, writing in a statement: ‘This is a Government that takes action to protect people.’ Yet experts disagree. ‘Right now, more children are going hungry than during the pandemic,’ CEO of charity FareShare Lindsay Boswell told Grazia last month, as the cost of living crisis intensified.

And really, even if Liz Truss’ Conservatives are against ‘government handouts’ starving children is bad for business. As Jamie correctly concluded: ‘If you speak to the best minds in economics, in the country, in the world, they will tell you that if you output healthier kids, you’re going to have a more productive, more profitable country, better GDP.’

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