George Osborne is poised to snatch free school meals from the mouths of the youngest children in a November spending review
According to Sky News, the government is considering the cut despite its pledge to continue the policy in the 2015 Conservative manifesto.
Currently all children in England are eligible for a warm lunch provided by their school canteen, regardless of their family’s circumstances.
The Mirror reports: The policy saves the parents of reception, year one and year two pupils, about £400 per child, per year.
It was a flagship Lib Dem measure in the five-year Coalition government.
But the Tories are ready to scrap the meals in a move celebrity chef Jamie Oliver warned would be “a disaster”.
Dad-of-four Jamie, who advises the Government on child obesity, told Sky News the scheme had been “a major step forward for children’s health and academic performance”.
He said most packed lunches “get nowhere near the nutritional standards” set for school meals.
Fellow famous cook Raymond Blanc weighed in, saying axing free school meals for infants would be “short-sighted and catastrophic”.
Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell fumed: “Schools have, at their own cost, installed new kitchens to deliver this scheme.
“Yet before it can be properly evaluated for its impact on pupils’ performance at school, they are shutting the door.
“The Tories never liked this scheme – we all know that – but schools have gone to a huge amount of trouble and effort to deliver it.
“This will be a slap in the face for them and for the hard-pressed families it supports.”
Axing the meals would have uncomfortable echoes for the Tories of the 1970s’ policy to get rid of free school milk.
The controversial decision led to then Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher being branded “Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher” – which continued even during her 11 years as Prime Minister.
Scrapping free school meals would “underline how little the Government is protecting the education budget which is vital for the future success of our children and our country”, warned Ms Powell.
She went on: “This comes at a time the Government is cutting tax credits for working families.
“This decision will see over three million families lose an average of £1,000 a year and directly increase levels of poverty in Britain.