Friday, January 16, 2009

Prospect of free school meals for primary school children in Islington

It looks like councillors in Islington have got to decide whether to spend public money on free school meals for all primary school children or on councillor allowances and the council PR budget. See report in Islington Tribune

Thats a no brainer for me!

The council leader, who is against the free school meal plan, has argued that we shouldn't pay for meals for "rich peoples kids" and I know that will strike a chord with some. But lets think about it for a minute- we pay child benefit to rich people not because we want to increase their wealth but because actually a universal benefit system has very low admin costs and is the most effective way to get the money where it is needed.

I am positive that the UN world food programme would be happy to recieve the dinner money from the parents in Islington that can afford to pay to invest in developing world school meal schemes.

Giving all children a free school meal would have major benefits:

  • It would be a financial help to those working families not entitiled to free school meals who are really feeling the pinch
  • It would create employment and training opportunities for local people
  • The economy of scale would mean caterers had greater purchasing power leading to better quality ingredients for the kids
  • It could introduce children to a wider range of fruit and veg
  • The whole school community enjoying a pleasant lunch together is a bonding process. I suppose that is why private schools insist on it

If we want children and families to radically change their eating habits it is not unreasonable for the state to lead by example by providing decent tasty lunches in civilised surroundings. And yes, that will cost money but it's a better investment than PR. It is now established that the poor diet our children currently eat is storing up huge problems, both medical and financial. Investing in free school meals is a brilliant way to help our children change their eating habits. I can't wait for the day when I don't have to witness children as young as 5 eating nothing but crisps and biscuits for lunch on a daily basis.