A debate on Universal Free School Meals in House of Commons
On Friday 17th November, two Enfield representatives of the UK Youth Parliamentand Enfield Youth Council, Isabelle Stones (15 years old) and Ruth Mobenge (16 years old) attended the House of Commons and took part in the debate on universal free school meals and food security for young people as part of their campaign, ‘Food for Learning’. The campaign was coordinated by the British Youth Council in partnership with the Child Poverty Action Group.
More than 200 Members of Youth Parliament from across the UK participated in the House of Commons debate, which formed part of their proposed solutions to extending free school meals.
The topics being debated were chosen by Members of Youth Parliament at UK Youth Parliament’s Annual Conference over the summer, and unfolded in the following order:
Morning session 11:00am -12:50pm
• Holiday Hunger – Create provisions to ensure young people have access to meals outside of term time.
• Quality of Food – School meals should be made using good, healthy and nutritious ingredients and no ultra-processed foods.
• Speeches from Youth Representatives from British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
Afternoon session 1:40pm- 4:00pm
• Standardisation – Ensure young people all have access to the same quality and volume of food in schools.
• Financing & Funding – Create arrangements to fund school meals.
• Additional Pricing – Ensure the prices of any additional food are reasonable and consistent across the UK.
As a result of the debate, the UK Youth Parliament has chosen to focus on ‘finance and funding’ of free school meals for the remainder of its ‘Food for Learning’ campaign. The sessions were chaired by Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons Dame Rosie Winteron MP.
Powerful speeches and articulate arguments were made around universal free school meals and food security for young people. One of those being Isabelle Stones, a member of the Enfield Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament representative who said, “Equality, nourishment, health – these are the building blocks of our society. They are what we need to function. However, so many young people, the future of society don’t have this! Access to food shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be the norm. By Funding universal free school meals, we are using our position to create change! We are not speaking empty words, we’re speaking the future. Every child should have funding and access to free school meals if we want the next generation to be productive, resilient and strong. If not now, when? If not us, who? I urge you to vote for this notion, not for yourself, but for those who are suffering. Thank you.”