Provision of School Meals Act

Margaret McMillan and Fred Jowett were members of the School Board the introduced free school meals in Bradford. This was actually illegal and Bradford could have been forced to end this service. McMillan and Jowett tried to persuade Parliament to introduce legislation the encourage all education authorities to provide meals for children. McMillan argued that if the state insists on compulsory education, it must take responsibility for the proper nourishment of school children. A report published in 1889 indicated that over 50,000 pupils in London alone were attending school "in want of food".

The 1906 General Election elected a Liberal government committed to social reform. Fred Jowett, the Labour MP for Bradford was elected to the House of Commons for the first time. Jowett's maiden speech was on the subject of school meals and eventually managed to convince Parliament that hungry children had trouble learning and in 1906 it passed the Provision of School Meals Act. This act permitted local authorities to provide school meals. However, local authorities were slow to respond to this legislation and by 1939 less than 50% were providing this service.

Primary Sources

(1) Amie Hicks, pamphlet during the 1885 School Board elections.

I would work for and support one good free meal a day. As all unbiased medical opinions declare that it is impossible to educate half-starved or insufficiently fed children without physical and mental injury, and under our present system of society it is impossible for our working classes to ensure their children proper nourishment.