The chef and champion of food rights Jamie Oliver has said there is a need “now more than ever” for the number of children eligible for free school meals to be expanded.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Oliver said the benefits and income threshold that parents must meet for their children to be eligible for free school meals should be lowered.
Children of parents who are on Universal Credit and have an annual income of no more than £7,400, or are on another benefit, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, are entitled to free school meals.
Oliver said: “If you earn over £7,400 you don’t get the free school lunch. But I think we all agree that there is a huge gulf between the means test for free school lunch as it is and universal credit .
“I think what the government is saying is universal credit bonds and can go up to £30,000 to £40,000, but really we’re talking about the bulk of them being around £14,000 per household.”
Asked if he wanted the threshold to be reached, he said: “Well, now more than ever … if they opened up the threshold on who would be allowed to eat a free school lunch, it would also inject funds into the system that would also really help to guarantee a much better service across 26,000 schools in the country.”
Oliver, 47, told Today that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had to “almost die and have a baby” before he saw the chef’s view over school lunches.
Asked about getting Johnson “onside” after “fighting with him” over free school meals, Oliver said: “He almost had to die and have a child to put him in the mind to do the right thing.”
Oliver was asked by the program if he was part of “anti-growth coalition”a term coined by Liz Truss, the Prime Minister, for a large and wide-ranging group of people who believe her economic plans for the country will be disastrous.
He replied: “Absolutely not. I have spent a lifetime not only employing over 20,000 people but traveling the world saying how brilliant Britain is.
“This is what we have to do as a country. We have an incredible country, but to just do quick trade deals to the lowest common denominator and threaten British agriculture and British manufacturers is absolutely insane.
He added: “The reality is that if you talk to the best minds in economics, in the country, in the world, they will tell you that if you produce healthier children, you will have a more productive, more profitable country, better GDP . To do that, you have to think in 10- to 20-year terms, not three-year cycles.”