A CLP member celebrates Labour’s free school meals policy as the best of starts in tackling child obesity
AT Labour, we thoroughly believe in giving children the best start in life. This is backed up by the necessary policies in our Party’s manifesto, For the Many, not the Few.
Child obesity is an ever-growing concern, one that will end up costing the country millions in future healthcare costs if it is not addressed at primary level. Labour is committed to halting Conservative government cuts in our schools and has instead put children first by pledging to give every primary school child a free lunch. The cost of this policy will be more than covered by claiming VAT from private school fees.
Currently, 1.2 million children are denied access to a free school meal despite falling below the poverty line. This puts further pressure on struggling families who are ‘just about getting by’ after years of austerity imposed by this government. Conservative policy as recently as 2017 was to further cut school meals provision.
Free school meals are at the forefront of the war on child obesity. These meals are required to meet government nutritional standards which include two portions of fruit and veg per day as well as servings of oily fish and wholegrain foods. This is a considerably healthier alternative than a sugar-filled, processed packed lunch.
Jeremy Corbyn praised this change of policy as ‘a benefit to children’s health whilst ending a subsidy for a privileged few’.
It’s long been clear that the Tories, who planned cuts to free school meals in their 2017 manifesto, have been forced to accept Labour’s argument. They decided to U-Turn their policy, when cabinet minister Michael Gove belatedly announced his backing for a ‘free school meals for all’ policy. Prior to that the Conservatives had merely proposed free breakfasts in primary schools, a move that critics denounced as a money grab and a step backwards in the fight against childhood obesity.
We believe that all children deserve the best start in life; the healthiest start. Families struggling to make ends meet deserve a break, a better chance at getting by in austerity Britain. We can lift people out of poverty. Healthy eating needs to start early and comes at no extra cost to families. In order for this to work it requires proper investment in our schools and an end to Tory cuts.
We should always look for the best ways to tackle problems at an early level and to raise peoples’ awareness. Healthy free school meals are of paramount importance in giving our children a brighter future.
Matthew Bevington, Cheltenham CLP