Whole classes of children in primary schools across Wales are enjoying free school meals together for the first time from the start of the new school year.
As the First Minister and Siân Gwenllian, Plaid Cymru’s Designated Member, visited a primary school on Wednesday (September 7) they announced the expansion of free school meals to more than 6,000 nursery-age children in schools.
Nursery-age pupils attending a maintained school for at least two full sessions, on any one day per week, will be eligible for a free school meal.
£35m of new capital funding will support the roll-out of the scheme. The funding will be provided to local authorities to invest in improvements to school catering facilities, including purchasing equipment, upgrading existing kitchen facilities and updating digital systems.
The funding is in addition to £25m of capital funding provided to local authorities in 2021-22. £200m of revenue funding has also been committed for the day-to-day provision over the next three years.
“No child should go hungry. Families throughout Wales are under huge pressure because of the cost-of-living crisis and we are doing everything we can to support them. Extending free school meals to all primary schools is one of a number of measures we are taking to support families through this difficult time.
“I’m really pleased to see how our schools have embraced this and the speed at which they and our public services have worked together to begin providing free school meals.
“We know younger children are more likely to be living in relative income poverty, which is why the youngest of our learners will be the first to benefit.”
Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price said:
“As we face a cost-of-living crisis, introducing universal free school meals for primary children, giving children a more equal start in life and helping families make the weekly budget go further has never been more important.
“Through our Co-operation Agreement we are delivering much needed support for families and making a real difference by investing in our schools to provide these meals.
“Over the next three years we will roll-out free school meals across all year groups in our primary schools, meaning no child will need to go hungry while they are in class. By working together we are making a real difference to people’s lives.”
Extending free school meals to all primary school children is a key commitment in the three-year Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
It will deliver a transformational intervention in terms of child hunger and child poverty, as well as supporting educational attainment, child nutrition and local food production and distribution, to benefit local economies.
The first year will focus on building schools’ capacity and aims to ensure that, by the start of the summer term in 2023, most pupils from Reception to Year 2 will be receiving free school meals. Most children in Reception classes will start receiving school meals from this week.