Tower Hamlets Free School Meals initiative shortlisted for APPG Excellence in School Food Awards


Young children enjoying their school meal in Tower Hamlets.

After a rigorous selection process, Tower Hamlets has been selected as a finalist in the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Excellence in School Food Awards for its groundbreaking Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) programme. This initiative, launched in September 2023, marked Tower Hamlets as the first local authority in the UK to extend UFSMs to all secondary school pupils, promoting healthy eating behaviours and supporting families during the cost-of-living crisis.

The council set an ambitious target in May 2022 to provide UFSMs to secondary pupils by September 2023, aiming to address the needs of pupils from low-income families who do not qualify for national free school meals. This initiative also sought to alleviate financial burdens during the cost-of-living crisis, saving families £550 per child annually.

By October 2023, all 20 secondary schools successfully implemented UFSMs, with Tower Hamlets secondary schools delivering healthy, freshly cooked UFSMs to all its 8,500 pupils. Since its launch, there has been a significant increase in meal uptake, particularly amongst eligible free school meal children from low-income families.

The council’s determination led to overcoming various challenges, including ensuring that all kitchen schools had the capacity to meet increased production of school meals and to deliver the initiative on time. Feedback from pupils, lunchtime supervisors, and teachers underscores the positive impact of UFSMs on behaviours, social dynamics, and academic performance.

This achievement in pioneering UFSMs is having a positive impact on local communities and children in the borough and setting a new standard for excellence in school food programmes. The anticipated APPG Awards, scheduled later this month, will unveil whether Tower Hamlets wins.


Posted on Tuesday 9th January 2024