Tesco, Aldi and Asda are among the major supermarkets calling on the government to extend free school meals in England. 

Some of the UK's biggest retailers have co-written a letter which urges the government to commit to expanding the eligibility of free school meals in the upcoming Autumn budget.

Chefs Jamie Oliver and Tom Kerridge have written the letter to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan alongside Iceland, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Aldi, Co-op, Waitrose, Asda and Morrisons.

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The letter calls for the free school meals initiative to be extended to all children from families in England who receive universal credit.

Jamie Oliver and Tom Kerridge call for free school meals to be extended 

Households in England who receive Universal Credit must earn below £7,400 a year before benefits and after tax to qualify.

800,000 children in England are living in poverty but do not qualify for free school meals, according to the Food Foundation's estimations.

The retailers write: “In the coming months, food insecurity in the UK will inevitably rise. Increasing energy bills will place pressure on household budgets and limit funds available for food.

“Simultaneously, external pressures are causing everyday groceries to rise in price. Many families are approaching breaking point.

“As food retailers, we witness first-hand the daily struggles our customers face to feed their families. We are committed to doing all we can to support them, with several actions set to be implemented in the coming months, but we cannot do this alone.

The Argus: Major UK supermarkets call for Government to extend free school meals (PA)Major UK supermarkets call for Government to extend free school meals (PA) (Image: Newsquest)

“For this reason, we call on the Government to do more to protect children and ease the burden on struggling parents.”

The letter concludes: “So, now, we strongly urge you to consider the scale of children’s food insecurity across the UK and act without delay to prevent its devastating consequences.

“We encourage you to use the Budget announcement on November 17 to commit to expand free school meals to all children from families in England that receive universal credit as a first step to universal provision, so no child has to go through the school day hungry.”

TV Jamie Oliver added: “It’s mind-boggling that no-one in Government can make the connection that one of the best and most cost-effective safety nets we can offer people is simply giving our most vulnerable kids a free school meal.

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“Which is why we’re calling on the Government to do the right thing and commit to an expansion of the free school meals scheme this week.”

The news comes as former One Direction bandmate Zayn Malik called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “give all children living in poverty” a free school meal amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Last month, the Government’s food tsar called for an “almost immediate” increase in free school meals.

Henry Dimbleby, who authored the national food strategy, told MPs that expanding provision was “one of the best measures we can do” to address the impact of the rising cost of living.