Statement: Commissioner calls on Scottish Government to prioritise rolling out universal free schools meals.

Scottish Government should prioritise rolling out universal free schools meals.

Excerpts from the below statement first featured on the 17th of August 2022 in the BBC article ‘Will my child get free school meals this year?’

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland:

“Poverty is the most important human rights issue affecting children in Scotland and this includes food poverty. Thousands of children across Scotland currently live with food insecurity – where they do not have consistent access to sufficient affordable, nutritious food. A decade long increase in child poverty coupled with a cost of living crisis, and the ongoing impact of covid continues to affect children and young people’s right to food across Scotland.”

“The right to food is set out in international human rights law and it is closely linked to children’s rights to health and education. Children who experience food insecurity are more likely to experience poor health, obesity and malnutrition, as well as other challenges to their physical and mental development. Food insecurity also affects educational performance – put simply, hungry children find it difficult to learn.”

“Universal school meals are one of the ways in which the Scottish Government can fulfil children’s right to food by providing a nutritious meal to all children. There are many barriers to families taking up the offer of the free school meal provision, and one of the greatest can be the stigma attached to claiming for this entitlement. Free school meals for everyone in primary school reduces that stigma and helps reinforce the understanding of food as a human right, not an act of charity. We have long accepted the universal provision of the rights to education and healthcare and children’s right to food should be fulfilled as a necessary universal good in the same way. The Scottish Government need to prioritise rolling out universal free schools meals to all primary aged children as soon as possible.”

Secondary School Provision

“Food insecurity does not end when a child reaches secondary school age. It is crucial that we address food insecurity for older children and we support extending universal free school meals provision to secondary schools. While free school meals are an important lever to tackle child food poverty in Scotland, we know that in secondary schools there is evidence of declining uptake of free school meals, with children choosing to leave school at lunchtime. Secondary school pupils have told us that there are several barriers to taking up free school meals, including lack of awareness of eligibility for free school meals; stigma; quality of food and portion sizes; lack of choice; and the adequacy of school dining spaces.”

“The principle to extend access to universal free school meals to all secondary school pupils is a positive one as it will remove the current age-based cliff-edge of access to support, but it cannot be an extension to the current model. The Scottish Government, local authorities and individual schools must take steps to address the barriers which discourage children in secondary schools from taking up free school meals by working with children and young people to create offers of support which better meet their needs.”


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