£25m is being invested in school kitchen and dining infrastructure, as part of plans to roll out free school meals to all primary school children in Wales, the Welsh Government has announced.
The policy is part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, which will see free school meals extended to all primary school pupils over the next three years.
From September, some of the youngest children in primary schools will begin receiving free school meals as the policy is introduced in a phased way.
Working with schools and local authorities, the Welsh Government will plan and prepare the infrastructure needed for all primary aged pupils to receive free school meals by September 2024.
Revenue funding of up to £200m has been set aside for local authorities to deliver the commitment, with £40m to be provided in 2022 to 2023, £70m in 2023 2024 and £90m in 2024 to 2025.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
Together we have made a joint commitment that no child in Wales should go hungry and that every child in our primary schools will be able to have a free school meal.
We are facing an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis. We know younger children are more likely to be living in relative income poverty, which is why the youngest of our learners will be the first to benefit.
This cost-of-living crisis is being felt by families all over Wales, extending free school meals is one of a number of measures we are taking to support families through this difficult time.
Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price said:
From talking to other parents, it's very clear that families need as much support with living costs as possible, especially given the additional financial challenges people are currently facing. Today's announcement begins the roll-out of a policy that will make a real difference to many across the country. It is an important step towards fulfilling one of our key pledges in the Co-operation Agreement and an example of how constructive joint working is making a real difference on the ground.
This new capital funding supports the start of the introduction of free school meals for all primary school children. It is also part of a wider agenda to use those powers we do have in Wales to tackle child poverty, which affects a third of our children. Removing the stigma associated with having a free lunch will mean that children receive a healthy meal at a formative stage in their development, hungry children cannot learn or achieve their true potential. Together, we’re delivering for Wales and making a difference.