Schools should get go ahead to serve cold food to speed up Wales’ universal free school meals roll-out says think tank
The Welsh Government should permit local authorities to serve healthy, cold meals in schools whose facilities are not ready for the immediate roll-out of universal hot food, a think tank has said.
The Bevan Foundation said that flexibility was needed to ensure that all children living in poverty are provided with Free School Meals as quickly as possible.
Free school meals extended to all primary school pupils in Wales over the next three years, as part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
But the Bevan Foundation said that the escalating cost of living crisis means that the need to implement this commitment rapidly had “never been greater”.
Speaking on behalf of the Bevan Foundation, Dr Steffan Evans said: “It is crucial that the Welsh Government provides schools and local authorities with enough flexibility to ensure that all children benefit from the roll-out of universal primary school meals this September.
“We know many local authorities are already looking at innovative solutions. This includes the provision of healthy cold food. Such approaches should be encouraged in the short term whilst steps are taken to increase capacity within schools.”
The think tank’s report found that there were three broad barriers to rolling out universal free school means in Welsh schools:
- The physical capacity of school dining and catering facilities.
- Pressure on both global and local supply chains are likely to cause cost and delivery pressures.
- Pressures on staff capacity.
During its research the Bevan Foundation also unearthed concerns that families will still have to apply for Free School Meals, even after the rollout of universal provision. This was likely to put significant pressure on local authority resources as they see a significant increase in applications they must process, they said.
“It is crucial that the Welsh Government works with local authorities to ensure that families will not have to make an additional application to access universal school meals,” Steffan Davies said.
“All our focus should be on providing school meals to as many children as possible, not creating new paperwork that will deter families and put pressure on local authorities.”
The Bevan Foundation is a charity that develops solutions to poverty and inequality in Wales. It is independent of government and any political party. This report is part of a project funded by Oxfam Cymru.
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