Free school meals should be given to all children when schools and nurseries return, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has said.
A gradual expansion of free school meals has been announced by the Scottish Government, with all Primary 1 to 4 pupils now eligible from the start of the new term.
It is expected that free meals will be available to P5 pupils in January, taking the number of eligible pupils to 90,000, according to Scottish Government estimates.
But the STUC Women’s Committee, along with unions, some MSPs, charities and youth organisations have now written to Scotland’s education secretary demanding the policy be expanded to all pupils at both primary and secondary schools as well as children at nursery.
Commenting on the letter to Shirley-Anne Somerville, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “While the Scottish Government have made some welcome advancements on free school meals policy in Scotland, it does not stretch far enough.
“From this week, pupils in Primary 1 – Primary 4 in Scotland will be entitled to a universal free school meal.
“Primary 5, 6, and 7 pupils will need to wait until 2022, while secondary school pupils and nursey have been discarded.
“Hunger, food insecurity, poverty, and stigma know no age boundaries, and action on poverty and inequality cannot be further delayed.
“Poverty and inequality were already at an unacceptably high level in Scotland well before the coronavirus pandemic struck. 60% of working-age adults are living in poverty, and 65% of children in poverty are living in a household where someone is in employment.
“Hundreds of families are living below the poverty line each day but do not meet the threshold for a free school meal.”
Ms Foyer added: “If the Scottish Government are serious about significantly reducing child poverty by 2030 and meeting its own child poverty targets, they must take action.
“Schools alone will not solve poverty and the roots of the attainment gap stretches well beyond the school gates, but the significant role our educational institutions play in tackling poverty, challenging inequality, and helping to build a healthier, more inclusive society cannot be underestimated.
“The momentum, the resources, and the capacity to deliver universal free school meals to all is evident.
“What is missing is the will from the Scottish Government to be bold and take action on committing to the implementation of this progressive policy.”