The Archbishop of York has backed a city-wide appeal to raise cash to provide free school meals for primary school children in two of York’s most disadvantaged areas.

The York Hungry Minds Appeal aims to provide funds so that free school lunches can be provided from January for children at Westfield Primary.

The council has already set aside £100,000 to pay for the first year of the pilot at Westfield, with the aim of studying what impact it has on children’s school performance and attendance.

But the hope is to also raise enough money for a second pilot project, under which children at Burton Green primary would be offered free breakfasts.

That second pilot – and the eventual extension of the free school meals plan to other schools if the pilots prove successful – depends on sufficient funds being raised through the York Hungry Minds Appeal.

In a specially-recorded video which has just been released ahead of Christmas, the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell has given his enthusiastic backing to the appeal.

He said: "I think we all know that if you are hungry, you cannot concentrate on much else. And the tragedy is that there are children in schools today who are hungry, and they're falling behind at school because of that.

"There's families where there's poverty, but where that poverty - made worse by the cost of living crisis - hasn't reached the threshold where the children would be eligible for free school meals. But that doesn't change the fact that they're hungry.

"Well, the Hungry Minds appeal here in York is trying to address that. It actually has a huge vision of wondering, well, to take away the stigma of free school meals, to help the children that maybe we don't know that they're hungry, what about offering a free school meal for every child in every school?”

The Archbishop said he accepted that providing a free school meal for every child was probably ‘beyond us’ in the current economic climate.

But he said that by piloting free meals in one or two York schools it would be possible to see what difference a guaranteed proper meal each day would make to their education and wellbeing.

He added: “You may be listening to me, thinking, well hang on, this is York, isn't York an affluent place? Well yes, in many ways it is. But also in this city, there are many areas where there is great need and great deprivation, and where today children are going hungry.

"This is one way we can make a significant difference.

"So if you can, please give generously to the Hungry Minds appeal. Let's see what difference it makes, and let's see where that may lead us as a city and as a nation.”

Investigating ways to offer free school meals to York primary school children - starting with schools in the most disadvantaged areas - was a key Labour election pledge ahead of the May elections.

The council's executive member for education Cllr Bob Webb said the appeal 'reflects the one city approach we’re keen to promote where everyone is able to flourish and succeed'.

To donate to the appeal - which is being administered for the council by the Two Ridings Community Foundation – visit