LABOUR and Liberal Democrat councillors in York have united to call on national party leaders to include a ‘free school meals for every primary school child’ pledge in their general election manifestos.

In a letter to PM Rishi Sunak, opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer and national Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, they write: “Child hunger is an epidemic in our schools.

“Last year, over 4 million children experienced food insecurity – not having access to nutritious and balanced meals, or even having to skip meal entirely.

“For the first three years of school, every child in England gets a hot dinner – and no child under seven wants for food while they're at school.

“But from Year 3 on, millions of children as young as seven miss out on a healthy meal at school.

“Providing a free school meal for every child in primary school will ensure all children can flourish and no child is left behind.

“Will you commit to extending Free School Meals to every child in primary school in your manifesto?”

The letter, signed by York’s Labour leader Cllr Claire Douglas and Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr Nigel Ayre, follows the launch of the city council’s York Hungry Minds appeal.

The appeal has been raising money for two pilot projects in the city - one to fund free school lunches for every Key Stage 2 child (in Years 3-6) at Westfield Primary, and another to fund a free breakfast for every child at Burton Green Primary.

The aim is to evaluate the impact a proper meal has on the children’s learning and well-being - and then, funding permitting, to start extending the scheme to other York primary schools in the most disadvantaged areas.

Children at Westfield began enjoying their free lunches when they returned to school this week. The Press understands that the free breakfasts at Burton Green will begin in the next couple of weeks.

The Hungry Minds Appeal was launched in York following an election pledge by Labour councillors.

It was backed last month by the Archbishop of York, who said: “"If you are hungry, you cannot concentrate on much else. And the tragedy is that there are children in schools today who are hungry.”


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York’s Lib Dem leader Cllr Ayre said today that there was ‘no chance that the Labour administration will be able to honour their pre-election promise to deliver Free School Meals for every Primary School child in York’.

But he added: “We are glad that the York Labour Party have signed up to the Liberal Democrat position that the best way to deliver Free School Meals is with a national programme.”

York Press: Cllr Bob WebbCllr Bob Webb (Image: Stephen Lewis)

The council’s Labour executive member for education, Cllr Bob Webb, said: “We are glad Liberal Democrats have joined us in calling for a national scheme.

“The marked difference between us is we’ve chosen not to wait indefinitely for national action and instead proactively mobilise the city to respond to the needs of children and their families now.

“We cannot simply wait and hope that letter writing alone will make the difference … when the opportunity exists to feed children and support their learning straight away.”

Labour earmarked £100,000 of council cash to kick-start the Hungry Minds appeal and ensure the year-long pilot at Westfield Primary could go ahead.

The appeal was also boosted just before Christmas by two big donations - £20,000 from York-based housebuilder Persimmon, and a second large donation from the Sylvia and Colin Shepherd Charitable Trust – which ensured the Burton Green pilot could go ahead.

To donate to the appeal visit