Jamie Oliver denies being part of the ‘anti-growth coalition’

The celebrity chef believes free school meals could lead to a better GDP

aJamie Oliver has denied being part of the “anti-growth coalition” as he called for the threshold to be widened for those who qualify for free school meals.

The celebrity chef and restaurateur said he believes that investing in free school meals for children could lead to a better GDP for the country.

At present, the 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 eligible for free school meals.

Mr Oliver told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If they were to open the threshold of who would be allowed to have a free school lunch, that 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.”

During her Tory conference speech in Birmingham last week, Prime Minister Liz Truss railed against those she accused of trying to hold back her pro-growth agenda, stating that she was “not interested in how many two-for-one offers you buy at the supermarket”.

Downing Street later did not rule out that this included Mr Oliver, who has long campaigned against cheap junk food and buy one, get one free deals.

Asked if he is part of the movement, Mr Oliver said: “Completely not. I’ve spent a lifetime not only employing over 20,000 people but travelling around the world saying how brilliant Britain is.

“That’s what we need to do as a country. We have an incredible country but just doing quick trade deals to the lowest common denominator and threatening British farming and British producers is completely bonkers.”

He added: “The reality is, if you speak to the best minds in economics, in the country, in the world, they will tell you that if you output healthier kids, you’re going to have a more productive, more profitable country, better GDP. To do that, you have to think in 10 to 20 years, not three-year cycles.”

Mr Oliver said he had “no faith” Ms Truss would change her views after she signalled a scrapping of the planned ban on junk food multibuy deals during her speech, but suggested he was “up for the fight”.

“We’ve been tracking her and her views for six, seven years, she’s not going to change,” he said.

“She has a view, and that’s it. I think the older me can be a bit calmer, because she will be a ship that passes in the night.

“I think more importantly… if you can create an environment where every child has the ability to thrive at school, we know in every way, shape and form that kids who have a decent lunch and breakfast learn better, their educational attainment is better… but no-one’s taken it seriously yet.”

In a further swipe at the Government, he added: “I just think kindness has to be injected through this party if they’ve got any chance. And I don’t know if they’ve got it in them to show this kindness.”

In response to the chef’s comments about kindness, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “This is a Government that takes action to protect people.”

That included the energy price guarantee to protect people, businesses and the public sector from “unmanageable, unsustainable high costs” and “welcoming people in need” through the Ukrainian refugee schemes.

On Mr Oliver’s call for wider access to free school meals, the spokesman said: “We do provide a significant number of families with free school meals. Obviously we need to make sure we’re setting the right balance.”