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THE Mayor of London unveiled an emergency scheme today to extend free school meals to every primary school pupil in the capital for one year.
Sadiq Khan said the one-off £130m programme, which comes into effect from September, is an effort to help struggling households amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Funded by extra business rates income, it is estimated the move will help about 270,000 primary school pupils and save families in London about £440 per child over the year.
Currently, households in England receiving universal credit must earn less than £7,400 a year before benefits and after tax to qualify for free school meals.
According to the Food Foundation, an estimated 800,000 children in England are living in poverty but do not qualify.
Mr Khan said he was stepping forward after years of government inaction.
“The cost-of-living crisis means families and children across our city are in desperate need of additional support,” he said. “I have repeatedly urged the government to provide free school meals to help already stretched families, but they have simply failed to act.”
Food Foundation chief executive Anna Taylor called on the government to follow Mr Khan’s lead.
London Poplar & Limehouse MP Apsana Begum also welcomed the announcement, calling it a testament to the power of campaigning.
“As a representative of a constituency in a borough in which 53 per cent of children are now living in poverty, the impacts of Tory austerity are all too clear,” she said.
“In the world’s sixth largest economy, families across my constituency and constituencies across the country are choosing between heating and eating.”
National poverty charity Turn2Us said that implementing free school meals will be “one plate less spinning for families trying to keep their heads above water.”
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