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The Daily Mirror

Free School Meals for All


When the Mirror launched its campaign for universal free school meals it knew it would not be an easy battle to win. This was a campaign that dovetailed with the paper’s values, with its strong social conscience and its long history of standing up for those without a voice. Equally, it chimed with their readers’ sense of fairness and their desire for a more equal society where every child has the chance to fulfil their potential.

The Mirror called for England to follow Scotland and Wales in providing free school meals for every primary school pupil. The campaign was launched with the support of the National Education Union. Since then it has attracted the backing of more than 200 organisations, including the Child Poverty Action Group, the British Medical Association, the British Dental Association and Fans Supporting Food Banks. It has also been supported by the chef Tom Kerridge, food campaigner Henry Dimbleby and the broadcaster Gary Lineker.

The Mirror organised a petition which has since been signed by tens of thousands of people, a conference hosted by the NEU, an event at a Labour conference, debates in Parliament and a letter signed by MPs and supporters which was delivered to Downing Street.

An issue which was on the margins of the political agenda became the focus of widespread media coverage and became the subject of interviews with party leaders and spokespeople. In an early success, the Labour conference voted unanimously to adopt the policy at its annual gathering in Liverpool. The big breakthrough came when London mayor Sadiq Khan announced he would be rolling out universal free school meals for primary-age children in London. In September 2023, the Mirror reported that nearly 300,000 children in the capital would benefit from the scheme.

Dozens of Labour MPs and Mayors, including Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham, have also since backed the Mirror’s call. The Liberal Democrats have since announced it is now their official policy. The Mirror’s next goal is to convince the Labour leadership to adopt the policy and make it a key manifesto promise for next year’s general election.