Friday, January 28, 2011

Low income mums making the case for free school meals

I am so impressed with the parents forum in Pimlico. They held a great meeting to discuss free school meals. They got speakers from Islington and Westminster council to explain about their free school meal policies and a councillor from Westminster came along to explain why they weren't able to do it.

The parents made a short video explaining what free school meals would mean to them. It is very powerful viewing. One of the parents also made a terrific speech which I have copied below.

All of the women involved are new to campaigning but have done a really brilliant job. If you want to leave a message of support or have a question for them please leave a comment below and I will ensure that they get it.

Dianne’s Speech:

We all know why we are here today, so I thought I would get straight to the point.


It doesn’t sound a lot. Some of you may spend that on your own lunch in one day…

But to some of us, it makes a big difference. Many families that I know have two, or three or even four children in full time school. That is £35 per week. That’s the difference between getting a new school uniform, or not getting one. Getting a new winter coat. Or not always having to say “not this week”…!

We want the best for our kids. At the moment, there is a problem in Westminster with a rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. There are health programmes out there tackling this. We know from the other trials around the country that having a healthy, hot meal at lunch time directly impacts on children’s concentration levels. They are calmer in the classrooms. Not only does it improve their health but it impacts on their achievements in school. We know lunchboxes are a poor second best. Only 1% of lunch boxes in the UK meet the high nutritional standards of school meals.

So as parents we really want our kids to be able to have the very high quality school dinners that are offered in Westminster’s schools. But many of us have to choose between this cost, and other equally important things for our families.

We all know it has been very cold over the last few months. We all had to put some extra heating on. But what if you just can’t afford to put the extra heat on, because you don’t have any more money to put on the key?

How do you explain to your kids not to put the heater on, when they get up and they’re cold? To hear them say “don’t do that, or we’ll be sitting in the cold and the dark!

Why is it right that when you go back to work after being on income support, you loose this help, just because you are getting – in a lot of cases – only a few extra pounds income?

Even with schemes where you can claim some clothing allowance, childcare for the first six months and so on… eventually this also stops, and this support is taken away leaving you still on a low income. With all these challenges on families’ income, we think it is simply unfair that those kids loose out. Would it not make sense to just give all kids a free hot meal?

In Southwark they are, and in Islington. So why can’t we?!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mums in Pimlico campaign for universal free school meals

I had a great meeting yesterday with the parents and carer forum in South Westminster. They are a diverse group of parents who are passionate about the importance of good school meals. Despite there being some very wealthy areas in Westminster these parents are concerned about the large numbers of low income families who simply cannot afford school meals regularly for their children.

They are holding a public meeting on Thursday 20th Jan 10am - 12.30 at Churchill Gardens Residents' Hall. Everyone who has an interest in school food is welcome to attend. Simply email to register

It was really refreshing to meet a group of mums who don't want to take no for an answer!