AN ADDITIONAL 1.5 million free school meals have been served in primary schools across Wales since the rollout of Universal Primary Free School Meals began in September.
As part of the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru, Universal Primary Free School Meals now allow an extra 45,000 primary school children to have the option of a free school meal. All primary school children and more than 6,000 nursery-age pupils attending a maintained school will be eligible for free school meals by 2024.
Its estimated nearly 66,000 extra pupils will be fed in the first year of roll-out.
£260m has been committed to implement the programme. This includes an additional £60m capital funding for local authorities to invest in improvements to school kitchen facilities, including purchasing equipment and updating digital systems.
Rollout started at the beginning of the autumn term, with reception children receiving the first free meals. Year one and two pupils are now also starting to benefit from the scheme.
Minister for Education and Welsh language, Jeremy Miles, said: “Schools and local authorities across Wales have been working incredibly hard to deliver 1.5m additional Universal Primary Free School Meals in the first few months of the rollout.
“I’m pleased that so many primary school children have benefited from the scheme already. Families across Wales are feeling the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, and Universal Primary Free School Meals are helping to ensure children have a nutritious meal.
“The programme will continue to expand in the new year, as even more authorities start offering free meals to Years 1 and 2 by April 2023.”
Designated Member Siân Gwenllian said: “Delivering 1.5 million additional free school meals in just over three months is a huge achievement and one that is needed now more than ever. The roll-out of universal free school meals in all primary schools in Wales shows how co-operative working through the agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government is making a real difference to people’s lives. We are making sure no child goes hungry, while also providing help for families during this cost-of-living crisis.
“The number of meals delivered will also increase as we work together to make sure all children attending primary schools will be eligible for free school meals by 2024. I want to thank our local authorities and schools helping us achieve this.”