Southwark Council says free school meals have been “pivotal” to reducing childhood obesity over the last decade.
The claim comes as the council celebrates ten years since it began offering free school meals to all primary school pupils – a scheme since been emulated by the Mayor of London.
Sadiq Khan’s scheme, which began this academic year, has freed up extra cash for Southwark Council, which is now extending free school meals to some secondary school students for the first time.
Council Leader Cllr Kieron Williams said: “It’s been a decade of doing the right thing for our children. As the cost of living spirals, these free nutritious meals are becoming a lifeline for ever more families.
“With two in every five children in London now living in poverty, and many more families only just getting by, you can see why.”
Since Southwark introduced universal free school meals in 2013, obesity among reception children is down by 9.3 per cent and 5.6 per cent among year 6 children.
Families have saved an estimated £3,330 and 97 per cent of Southwark schools are currently rated good or outstanding.
Southwark Council now provides free school meals to secondary school students whose parents receive universal credit.
Before that, only the very poorest secondary school pupils in Southwark – those from households earning less than £7,400 a year – were entitled to free school meals.
Cllr Jasmine Ali, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Education & Refugees, said: “Free healthy school meals have been pivotal in our primary schools’ success story, which is why we are happy to extend the offer to children in need in our secondary schools.”