Founded in 2007, School Food Matters was born out of a grassroots campaign led by a parent appalled by the food served at her children’s school. The campaign went on to transform school meals for 38 primary schools in the London borough of Richmond, moving them from frozen food made in a factory in Wales to freshly prepared meals made on site from quality ingredients.
For 15 years the charity has been campaigning for all children to have access to healthy food during their time at school whilst delivering a diverse range of fully-funded food education programmes. School Food Matters works in all London boroughs and in cities throughout England, and to date has worked with over 76,600 children in more than 800 schools.
School Food Matters’ approach emphasises health and sustainability, taking children from farms to school veg gardens, from honey bee hives to vibrant food markets, to explore harvesting and cooking their own food right through to making their own products, and selling them at market. Their ambition is to create a generation who will understand how food impacts on their health and their precious planet, and who will have the life skills to feed themselves and their future families.
The charity’s extensive knowledge, gained from delivering these programmes over 15 years, informs their advocacy, from a unique 360° perspective on how food education, food policy and school meal delivery works on the ground. They work in partnership with charities that share their mission, bringing the voices of children, parents and teachers to government policy. The growing cost of living crisis has seen them focus their attention on campaigning for extended eligibility to free school meals, raising awareness of the 800,000 children living in poverty who currently miss out, and the nationwide benefits to health and the economy if the scale of free school meals is increased. During the pandemic they responded to school closures by implementing an emergency Breakfast Boxes programme, delivering over one million nutritious breakfasts to families struggling to feed their children during lockdown.
Having contributed to the recent National Food Strategy, and now leading the School Food Review, School Food Matters is at the forefront of the campaigners calling for the new PM and Education Secretary not to U-turn on previous commitments, and let child health and nutrition slip dangerously down the agenda.
“Education leaders are telling us that too many families miss out on free school meals owing to the restrictive eligibility criteria. These are hard working families who have been hit hard by the cost of living crisis and are struggling to feed their families well. Free school meals provide an essential nutritional safety net, protecting children from food insecurity and improving health and educational outcomes. The current policy is adding to existing health inequalities and at odds with the government’s own ambitions to level up society and improve education standards. Urgent action is needed now to ensure that the 800,000 children living in poverty get the nutrition they need to thrive.”
Stephanie Slater, Founder and Chief Executive at School Food Matters