Free college meals for all

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Free college meals for all
Date13th Feb 2023AuthorDean BrittonCategoriesStudent Life

Times are difficult for everyone at the moment, with increased pressures on vital services and higher commodity, energy, and travel prices resulting in less disposable income for individuals and families to spend on other things. The result is an increasing burden on people’s physical and emotional wellbeing.  

Such times have also increased stress on our students, many of whom are vulnerable due to social, economic, and financial circumstances. We support many students in a variety of ways, as all colleges do, but felt we were able to do more to support all our students in an effective and morally appropriate manner.

Subsequently, from January 4th 2023, at Haringey Sixth Form College all students irrespective of need or circumstance have been given a daily allowance of £2.50 to spend on food and drink in college. This is the equivalent of a free school meal every day for the remainder of the academic year.  

Not only will this ensure that all of our students can benefit from a hot and nutritious meal, but it will also help to alleviate the financial burden that they or their families may be experiencing in some small way. We feel justified in our actions to support our students and their families during such times; and believe this change will help our students to focus on their studies and ability to achieve rather than be distracted with thoughts of hunger. We always try to remove the word “afford” and put in the word “why” in terms of our decisionmaking, and at Haringey Sixth Form Education Trust we are aligned to our values aiming for excellence in everything we do. Through a vigorous exercise of risk assessment and scenario planning, we find that more often than not, we can more than afford what we think we need to do. What we cannot ignore is the health and wellbeing of our students. We’ve examined the costs beyond the bottom line and figured out where the value is: this is our ethos as #TeamHaringey6. Our highest priority is our students and their families, so this was simply the right thing to do. This was not a difficult decision to make once we had established with our Board of Trustees that they could emotionally handle such a potentially brave call. 

We know of many students whose families are just above the Free School Meals (FSM) threshold and are struggling, experiencing similar challenges to those who are in receipt of FSM, and this initiative helps to address that concern whilst ensuring that all students, whether vulnerable or not, will no longer go hungry for the entire day or college week.

Over the first month of the year since this initiative came into force at Haringey, we’ve surveyed students about the impact this has had on them. The following benefits have all been named by students:

  • Reduced financial pressure on their families to provide money for lunch or for a college meal
  • The ability to focus more on studies due to the guarantee of a college meal resulting in less stress over what to eat later and how much to spend
  • The flexibility to choose to spend more on some days than others due to the provision of a daily allocation, which can be saved up
  • Where financial pressures had previously resulted in students having to decide on whether to use their limited funds on travel to college or food, the daily allowance has helped eliminate this issue in many cases.

We understand that this initiative will not address all the difficulties and disadvantages that our students and families may face, but this will make a significant impact on our students, their wellbeing, and their studies.

Dean is assistant principal for student support, experience, and progress at Haringey Sixth Form College.

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