RCPCH responds to illuminating research on the economic benefits of free school meals

Research commissioned by Impact on Urban Health confirms that expanding Free School Meals could inject up to £41.3bn into the economy.

The research explores two potential expansion scenarios and finds a positive return on investment for both, they are:

  1. Expanding free school meals to all children in England from households receiving Universal Credit: For every £1 invested, £1.38 would be returned, through social, health and educational benefits, resulting in £8.9bn in core benefits. A further £16.3bn of indirect benefits could come through wider economic and supply chain gains, such as growing the school food economy through expansion of school catering employment opportunities, resulting in £25.2bn total potential benefits.   
  2. Expanding free school meals to all children in state-funded education settings in England: For every £1 invested, £1.71 would be returned, resulting in £41.3bn in core benefits. A further £58.2bn of indirect benefits could arise, resulting in £99.5bn of total potential benefits.

In response to the research, RCPCH President Dr Camilla Kingdon said:

Paediatricians have long known that the key to sustainable and strong economic growth lies in the health and wellbeing of our future generations. This welcomed new research will allow us to put a clear figure on this investment and will be an important tool in influencing those who are swayed by an economic argument.

At the same time, few would surely disagree that one of our most basic human responsibilities is to ensure children have enough to eat. By expanding free school meals to all children we can build a compassionate and healthy society and children do not go hungry and can reach their full potential. This is an imperative step towards tackling child health inequalities.