07 Sep 2022
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is extremely pleased at the commencement of free school meals for primary school children in Wales today. Access to food is vital for children’s development and no child within our nation should go hungry.
The BDA aims to improve the health of the nation by supporting our members to promote good food and nutrition, and praises the commitment from the Welsh Government to ensure all primary school children in Wales will get free school meals by 2024.
We believe this is a positive policy and supports more families in response to the rising cost-of-living pressures. Tackling child poverty and ensuring no child ever goes hungry in school is an essential focus for all governments.
Whilst the Welsh Government is committed to implementing the scheme as quickly as possible and commences roll out from reception today, we would like to see all families at risk of food poverty receive immediate support to ensure no child, whatever year group ever goes hungry during the day.
The wider benefits of free school meals, including promoting healthy eating across the school, increasing the variety of food learners can eat, improving social skills at mealtimes, as well as improving behaviour and attainment contribute to the health and wellbeing of children in Wales.
We also ask providers to include the needs of those children with specific food requirements whom Dietitians work with to provide safe and nutritious food. This ensures that all children regardless of their individual health needs have access to a nutritious meal at school.
The investment of £35m new capital funding is welcomed to support investment in improvements to school catering facilities, including purchasing equipment, upgrading existing kitchen facilities and updating digital systems. All of these investments will ensure a sustainable school meals system allowing provision of safe, nutritious food across Welsh primary schools. However, food poverty does not end at primary school and we call on the Welsh Government to further extend this investment to secondary schools in the future.
While we commend the work of the Welsh Government today there are children across the other nations of the UK that will continue to go hungry. It is time for the UK Government, Scottish Government, and Northern Ireland Executive to follow the actions of the Welsh Government today and provide free school meals for all primary school children. No child in the modern United Kingdom should go hungry.