Sadiq Khan pledges to help Jewish primary students get hot kosher lunches

It comes as fears were raised over the welfare of needy school children


London Mayor Sadiq Khan reacts as he waits for the arrival of Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales at the Young V&A in east London on June 28, 2023, ahead of opening it after it was renamed from the V&A Museum of Childhood. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Sadiq Khan has said he will help Jewish schools provide hot kosher meals for students with a major cash boost to all London schools.

The Mayor of London announced an additional £5m to help London schools deliver meals for those with religious dietary requirements on Friday. This is on top of a £130 million fund to ensure 270,000 children in primary schools across the capital get free school meals from September.

The pledge comes as several north London Jewish schools admitted that they were struggling to provide kosher meals due to rising costs while specialist catering businesses have withdrawn their services.

One company supplying schools in Barnet borough ceased trading, leaving schools to tell parents of pupils to bring in a packed lunch or contribute towards a cold, pre-packed meal.

Khan said: “I’m determined to do all I can to help and know from personal experience what a lifeline free school meals can be. 

“By ensuring children don’t go hungry in the classroom and helping their families, we can build a better and more prosperous city for all Londoners.”

A spokesperson for Khan added: “The Mayor has set aside an additional £5m of funding to act as a contingency for any extraordinary costs associated with the delivery of free school meals in the next academic year.

"This will include helping to provide further funding for kosher meals and the Mayor’s team are working closely with boroughs to deliver it, as well as other contingencies as they arise.”

The government provides funding for free school meals for all children in state schools from reception to year 2 - although the allocation falls well short of the cost of providing a hot kosher meal. In addition, schools must offer free schools to families on low incomes according to government criteria. The Mayor's new fund will subsidise meals for older infants.

Andrew Gilbert, co-chair of the London Jewish Forum, hailed “a major step in the right direction”. He said the forum had “worked hard over recent weeks on the issues of the implication of the Mayor's announcement of free school meals for key stage two and its implications for kosher meals in Jewish schools.

Gilbert added: “Rabbi Joel Sager of Pardes House Primary has brought together evidence and worked on solutions for a wide number of affected schools. 

“The team in the education department at Barnet Council have sensitively understood the issues too. 

“The GLA free school meals team have listened to us and now the mayor and deputy mayor have responded.”

However, Gilbert stressed: “We also need government to respond on terms of key stage one where they brought in free school meals in a time without a coat of living crisis then it will be a challenge for the community and the schools and the parents to make this all work and contribute too. Together let us hope this is a vital first step to a solution.”

The forum was working with Jewish educational groups and London boroughs to see what further funding is necessary to cover the cost of kosher meals in schools, he said.

Barnet councillors have also been in intense discussions on the issue with Khan’s team.

Labour councillor Anne Clarke, who is also the London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, said there was “still some” way to go to finding a kosher catering provider for all our state Jewish schools.

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