THE BEVAN Foundation has recommended that the Welsh Government allow local authorities to serve healthy, cold food in schools that are not yet ready for universal hot meals.

According to the think tank, flexibility is required to ensure that all children in poverty receive free school lunches as soon as possible.

The Bevan Foundation is a charitable organisation dedicated to addressing poverty and injustice in Wales. It is not affiliated with any political party or the government. 

Following a three-year deal between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, all primary school kids in Wales will receive free school meals for the next three years.

However, the Bevan Foundation has stated that the necessity to implement this commitment quickly has “never been greater” due to the increasing cost of living crisis.

Speaking on behalf of the foundation, Dr Steffan Evans said: “It is crucial that the Welsh Government provides schools and local authorities with enough flexibility to ensure that all children benefit from the roll-out of universal primary school meals this September.

“We know many local authorities are already looking at innovative solutions. This includes the provision of healthy cold food. Such approaches should be encouraged in the short term whilst steps are taken to increase capacity within schools.”

According to the research carried out by the Bevan Foundation, there are three major obstacles to implementing universal free school lunches in Welsh schools.

  1. The physical capacity of school dining and catering facilities
  2. Pressure on both global and local supply chains are likely to cause cost and delivery pressures. 
  3. Pressures on staff capacity.

During their investigation, the Bevan Foundation discovered that even after universal provisions are implemented, concerned families will still have to apply for free school lunches.

They believe this will place tremendous strain on local government resources, as they expect a significant increase in the number of applications they must process.

Steffan Davies commented: “It is crucial that the Welsh Government works with local authorities to ensure that families will not have to make an additional application to access universal school meals.

“All our focus should be on providing school meals to as many children as possible, not creating new paperwork that will deter families and put pressure on local authorities.”