‘This is levelling up’: Jamie Oliver calls on all mayors across the country to offer free school meals for children

18 April 2024, 16:10

Jamie Oliver has called on all mayors to pledge free school meals for primary school children.
Jamie Oliver has called on all mayors to pledge free school meals for primary school children. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Jamie Oliver has called on all mayors across the country to offer free school meals for primary school children.

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The chef, 48, has said that he wants to see all mayors “put child health first” following Mr Khan’s announcement.

Mr Oliver, who is not endorsing any mayoral candidate, said that it would “morally, ethically and financially” be the “right thing” for all other mayors to make the same pledge .

It comes after London mayor Sadiq Khan vowed on Thursday he will retain the £140m a year free school meals policy for the entire four-year mayoral term if he is re-elected next month.

Mr Oliver told LBC: “Having nutritious and delicious food for our youngest kids, 190 days of the year, ultimately this is what our kids deserve.

“We’ve got an election coming up soon. I’m completely apolitical on this but when we start to see people in the area of politics, like the government has really not done enough by a long shot, from any kind of measurement.

“So to have our mayor of the city, London, setting this precedent and putting it forward as his manifesto - I wish all of his competition would put child health first. I wish the echoes of this would ripple through the country, we need a government going forward that puts child health at the centre of all decisions.

“This is levelling up. When politicians talk about levelling up, if you want to see levelling up, go and see free school lunches.”

Read more: Sadiq Khan pledges four more years of free primary school meals for children if re-elected as Mayor

Read more:Forty-eight victims of Stardust Fire in Dublin died unlawfully, inquest rules

Jamie Oliver on free school meals

Jamie Oliver with LBC reporter Henry Riley.
Jamie Oliver with LBC reporter Henry Riley. . Picture: LBC

“For those free school lunch kids, they don’t want to be the kids that get the separate tokens on the side, they don’t want the stigma, so those parents they get that help - but all the other parents will get that help.”

Asked if this meant he was calling on all other mayors to offer free school meals to primary school pupils, Mr Oliver said: “100%, I mean Andy Burnham is often a contemporary mayor but I would love to see him to fall into line on this because it’s morally, ethically and financially the right thing to do when you’re investing in the mid to long-term. This is progressive on any level.

“We have 14 metro mayors that have this opportunity to echo what Sadiq is suggesting.

“This is nourishing the next generation, it’s putting food in kids’ mouths.”

It comes after Mr Khan launched his 2024 mayoral manifesto on Thursday as he seeks a third term in office.

Sadiq Khan launched his mayoral manifesto on Thursday.
Sadiq Khan launched his mayoral manifesto on Thursday. Picture: Alamy

The free school meals policy was introduced from last September as a one-year emergency measure to help struggling London families in the cost of living crisis.

Mr Khan said: “Free school meals have proved a lifeline during the worst decline in living standards on record – saving parents and carers up to £1,000 per child over two years.

"But they do much more besides. That meal can be the difference between a child realising their potential and falling short of it. That meal removes the shame of not having enough money to eat. That meal makes children feel equal. And that’s why, if I’m re-elected on 2nd May, we’ll make universal free school meals permanent for all state primary school pupils in London. The choice couldn’t be clearer: free school meals extended with Labour or ended by the Tories.

“Essentials like nappies, toiletries and bedding have been pushed out of reach for families. People who’ve never needed help before are now seeking it. The struggle is not yours alone… we’ll commit to fund baby banks, ensuring that a child’s basic needs are met from the moment they leave the maternity ward.”

Mr Khan’s Tory rival Susan Hall questioned whether it was right for” Londoners on the breadline” to be contributing via their council tax to feed “children of millionaires.”

Labour estimates the policy will save the average London family £500 per school year per child.