Photo story: Free School Meals pilot extended to second school

An ambitious scheme to pilot free school meals for children in York has been rolled out to a second school, thanks to donations to the York Community Fund’s York Hungry Minds Appeal.

A pilot providing free breakfasts to children at Burton Green Primary School, York, started last week [Monday 29 January] and is already proving a big hit.

Head teacher at the school, Ash McGann, highlighted the difference the healthy, free breakfasts are already making at the school, helping children to transition calmly from home to school and having a positive impact on attendance.

The pilot has been made possible thanks to significant donations to the appeal from the Persimmon Charitable Foundation and the Sylvia and Colin Shepherd Charitable Trust.

The breakfast offer will run alongside a pilot providing free school lunches to Key Stage 2 children (Years 3-6) at Westfield Community Primary School from January – December 2024, which is being funded by City of York Council as part of its commitment to work towards York becoming an anti-poverty city.

Evidence suggests that Universal Free School Meals both support children’s ability to learn and reduce health inequalities between disadvantaged children and their peers.

Cllr Claire Douglas, Leader of City of York Council, said,

“Supporting our residents during the cost-of-living crisis and tackling disadvantage are commitments for the administration and are now enshrined in the Council Plan, One City for all.

“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.

“The start of this second pilot is a real milestone, and has been made possible thanks to some truly generous and hugely important donations from partner organisations.

Cllr Bob Webb, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, said,

“We know that these measures can make a difference to young people, 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, the start of the second free school meal pilot in York is a significant step in the right direction. I’m thankful to all our partners who’ve been involved in making this possible. ”

Tracy Davison, Trustee of the Persimmon Charitable Foundation, said:

‘As a York-based company, we’re thrilled to have been able to support the York Hungry Minds Appeal with a £20,000 donation from the Persimmon Charitable Foundation.

‘Nutrition plays a vital role in children’s ability to learn, and their overall development and it is fantastic to see the free school meals project rolled out to pupils at Burton Green Primary School this week.

‘The Persimmon Foundation is part of our commitment to leaving a lasting positive impact in the communities in which we operate, and we hope that the free school meals project makes a real difference to the lives of children in York.’

A representative of the Sylvia and Colin Shepherd Charitable Trust said,

“We are delighted to support such a worthwhile initiative that can make a real difference in the education of our young children in the city.”

Celia McKeon, Chief Executive of Two Ridings Community Foundation, said,

“This is an excellent start to the Hungry Minds Appeal, which Two Ridings is pleased to support through the York Community Fund. We hope it will also inspire other donors in the city to contribute and enable the scheme to be extended and support more children.”

Karen Forrester, Trust Operations Manager at Hope Sentamu Learning Trust said,

“Hope Sentamu Learning Trust is delighted to have been offered the chance to pilot the York Free Schools Meals in Burton Green Primary School. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Persimmon Foundation and the Sylvia and Colin Shepherd Charitable Trust for the significant donations to the York Community Fund’s Hungry Minds appeal to allow this project to go ahead.

“The Trust recognises that there are real benefits in starting the day with a healthy breakfast in terms of attendance and maintaining concentration and energy levels.”

Evaluation of the pilots will focus on gaining evidence about:

  • the difference the project makes to the take up of meals;
  • how much healthy food is going to children as a result based on their menu choices and food waste;
  • any changes in readiness to learn
  • any changes in absence due to illness and any changes to school attendance.

Anyone wishing to donate funding to support the Free School meals pilot can do so via the York Community Fund York Hungry Mind Appeal. A partnership between City of York Council and Two Ridings Community Foundation, the Fund will provide a vehicle for and source of independent funding that supports vibrant and purposeful community action to improve the wellbeing of people in the city.