Universal Free School Meals in Scotland
Soil Association Scotland was deeply concerned by the suggestion that the Scottish Government could halt the roll out of Universal Free School Meals (UFSMs). We believe every child has the right to a healthy, sustainable meal every day.
A guaranteed hot, nutritious meal is vital for children’s health, wellbeing and ability to learn. This is more important now than ever as families face the ongoing cost of living crisis. UFSMs provide a nutritional safety net for those who need it most, while also providing caterers with economies of scale.
With record numbers of families attending food banks, now would be a disastrous time to halt the roll out of UFSMs. We know that in a means tested system low-income families who are just above the threshold will continue to struggle. Many young people will fall between the cracks, whilst others will suffer due to the stigma attached to receiving free school meals.
The provision of UFSMs means the government can ensure that every child has access to at least one quality meal each day. There is evidence that this establishes healthy eating habits, reduces the attainment gap and increases school attendance.
Food procurement for school meals is a key driver in pushing forward the priorities of the Good Food Nation Act. Increasing UFSMs also provides an opportunity to enhance Community Wealth Building, to support sustainable producers and strengthen local economies.
We welcome Scottish Government’s continued commitment to rolling out Universal Free School Meals to P6 and P7 and call for a renewed commitment to a pilot to roll out free breakfasts in secondary schools. The alternative would be a step backwards in Scotland’s fight against poverty, and to our vision of Scotland as a Good Food Nation.