From Latin America to Japan, universal free school meals improve children's lives. It's time for the UK to follow suitby Swati Narayan / June 28, 2017 / Leave a comment
Every school day, India feeds 100 million children. This school lunch system is not only the largest in the world but also provides meals completely free.
Before the recent General Election in the United Kingdom, the Conservative manifesto fruitlessly set out to axe universal free school meals for infants—a move that would have affected over 900,000 children. By the time of the Queen’s Speech, the plan had been dropped.
Labour’s manifesto, meanwhile, committed to extending lunches to feed every primary school child. This begs the question: if India can fund a £1.5bn school lunch program from her coffers, surely Britain—as the fifth-richest country in the world—can also afford to feed all her children?
A global phenomenon
Nearly every developed country provides some form of school lunches. Finland and Sweden ensure that they are free for all children from the age of six. Many middle-income countries, like India, additionally protect the right of every child to be free from classroom hunger in law—ensuring that future governments do not downsize school meals and maintain nutrition standards.
But Latin America is by far the most progressive. In Brazil, Honduras, Bolivia, Paraguay, El Salvador, Cuba and Ecuador, universal meals are even served in pre-schools. Across Latin America, school meals have contributed to reducing stunted growth in children by 56 percent in the past 25 years.