Children at one primary school in York will get free school breakfasts following donations from charities.
The Labour Party won control of City of York Council in May 2023 following a promise that it would provide free meals for all primary school children in the city.
To fund the project, the administration set up a community pot to raise money from companies and individuals.
Westfield Primary School was the first school to be told children would receive free midday meals from January to December.
At the same time, Burton Green Primary School students will get free breakfasts, a cheaper alternative to a midday meal.
Cllr Claire Douglas, leader of the City of York Council, said: “Tackling disadvantage and supporting all our residents during the cost-of-living crisis was a manifesto commitment for the administration and has now been enshrined in the council plan.
“That contains a commitment to becoming an anti-poverty city, including supporting young people and families, through reducing food insecurity and exploring the benefits of free school meals for all primary school children.
“I’m delighted that, thanks to some truly generous donations, we’re able to start to meet what is an absolute priority for the council and roll out the free school meals pilot to a second school in York.”
Step in right direction
Cllr Bob Webb, executive member for children, young people and education, said: “Seeing our partners come together in this way to provide support to the city’s commitments, and to the futures of our children is truly inspirational and I thank those who have been so quick to step up and make this initial work happen.
“We know that there are real benefits for our children of these measures, in terms of attendance, attention to learning and in terms of physical and mental wellbeing.
“And while there is more to do to make this happen in all of our schools, this is a significant step in the right direction, and I am thankful to everyone who is involved in making this work.”
Persimmon Charitable Foundation was one of the donors, which gifted £20,000 to help fund the project.
The Sylvia and Colin Shepherd Charitable Trust also contributed to the fund.
Some opposition councillors have criticised the Labour council, accusing them of watering down its manifesto pledges.
Cllr Nigel Ayre, leader of York Liberal Democrats, said: “Whilst it’s positive that both Westfield Primary and Burton Green will both get free school meals for one year, this is far away from the Labour Party’s manifesto promise that every primary school child would get a free school meal.
“What we have is a limited trial in two schools with little prospect of that being expanded to cover every child as per their election pledge.”
However, Cllr Chris Steward, York Conservatives leader, was more generous in analysis.
“We welcome the expansion of the council’s pilot to expand free school meals in York and in particular we thank the generosity of two charitable funds, which is a great example of the kind behaviour we often see in York whether from individuals or organisations,” he said.