School meals

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School Meals

School meals can save you time on preparing lunches and offer children and young people a wide choice of healthy and tasty food. 

A hot, freshly prepared meal can also help with learning, concentration, and behaviour. 

Each school chooses their own school menu and cost for school meals. Contact your child’s school directly for more information. 

The food provided throughout the school day should meet the government’s school food standards. The food standards help children develop healthy eating habits and ensure they have the energy and nutrition needed to get the most from their school day. For more information on school food standards visit Standards for school food in England.

Universal infant free school meals  

Children in Reception, Year 1 and 2

All children in Reception, Year 1 and 2 get a Universal Infant Free School Meal (UIFSM). These are free of charge and not linked to any benefits a family may claim.  

If you are on a low income, you should still apply for free school meals so that your child’s school can claim the Pupil Premium, this can range from £955 to £1,345. This extra money is paid direct to schools for each child eligible for free school meals and used to support your child’s education. 

Free school meals  

All children and young people

Your child may be able to get free school meals if you receive any of the following: 

  • Universal Credit (provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400, as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods, and your monthly average income over three assessment periods should be no more than £616.67) 
  • Income Support 
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance 
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance 
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit 
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190) 
  • Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.

Children who get paid these benefits directly, instead of through a parent or guardian, can also get free school meals.

For information on free meals for young people in further education visit: Free meals in further education funded institutions: guide for the 2021 to 2022 academic year.

Applying for free school meals  

If you are eligible for free school meals you need to apply for each child when they start school. 

If your child is starting school then please submit your application in August, the month before your child is due to start. If your child is moving from primary to secondary school, their free school meal entitlement will automatically transfer with them. So, you do not need to reapply. 

If you have moved to the area and were receiving free school meals, then you need to provide evidence of the award letter or email you received from the previous authority.   

If your child is eligible for free school meals, they’ll remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they are in on 31 March 2025.

 You can check if you are eligible for free school meals by using the online application form, or by talking to your child’s school. 

Apply for free school meals 

The Contact Centre is here to help those who are unable to access the online application or require additional help. Contact 01454 868008 for more information. 

Free school meals during school holidays

If you claim free school meals your child may be offered a place on free food and activity holiday clubs. Visit our article on supporting families in school holidays for more information.