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Over 75% of young people would be more likely to eat lunch at school if given a free school meal, new report finds

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Today, the Scottish Youth Parliament has published a new report, ‘Young People’s Right to Food’, following a consultation across Scotland last year, with around 850 people contributing to the research.

The report focuses on young people’s experiences of accessing food as well as setting out recommendations for improvements within Scotland’s food system.

Our new report on the Right to Food comes at a time during the ongoing cost of living crisis, when children and young people are now facing more issues with accessing food as existing problems and inequalities are exacerbated.

We recognise the vital work that the Scottish Government and local authorities are already doing on this matter, including extending free school meals – however, we believe that politicians must go further and faster – now.

Sophie Reid MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament

Only two fifths (40.4%) of the young people who responded to this survey indicated they do know what help and support is available in their local community if they need help in accessing food.

Nearly half (47.4%) of respondents said they feel there is stigma associated with asking for help to access food. One young person said that the stigma could be battled by highlighting “how assistance benefits people and letting them know that a lack of food could hold them back from paying attention in school and studying for exams.”

The report makes five key recommendations, which include:

  1. Calling on Government to extend the provision of free school meals to all pupils in secondary schools across Scotland
  2. Councils should meaningfully involve young people in decision-making about the content and quality of school meals, and in making improvements to the eating environment
  3. Greater efforts must be made to ensure any stigma associated with asking for help to access food is eliminated
  4. Local government must raise awareness among young people about local programmes and initiatives supporting food access to increase equitable access to healthy food
  5. The Scottish Government must bring the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Incorporation Bill back to Parliament and commit to immediate commencement when it has passed

MSYPs (Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament) will now advocate on behalf of their constituents with Scotland’s decision makers both at Holyrood and on a local level.

As part of SYP’s campaign, MSYPs are working with the STUC to co-host a webinar on the issue, held to mark International School Meals Day, which falls on Thursday 9 March. SYP supports the STUC Women’s Committee Food for Thought campaign, which calls for the free school meals to be extended to all school pupils in Scotland.

The STUC Women’s Committee welcome this important and timely report from the Scottish Youth Parliament on improving young people’s right to access food in Scotland.

We fully endorse SYP’s recommendations and look forward to working with young people from the Youth Parliament on our shared priorities to expand universal free school meals to all young people in Scotland, making real their right to access nutritious and stigma-free meals as part of the school day.

Andrea Bradley, General Secretary of EIS Union and Chair of the STUC Women’s Committee

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