The main recent policy developments regarding school meals in England, including the revised school food standards and provision of free school meals.Jump to full report >>
This House of Commons Library briefing looks at the requirements on schools to provide nutritional meals, and the provision of free school meals.
This briefing relates to England only.
Nutritional standards are in place for school meals in England, aimed at ensuring that the food provided to pupils in school is nutritious and of high quality, and to promote good health and eating behaviour amongst pupils. Following an independent review of school food conducted by the founders of Leon restaurants in 2012-13, revised school food standards were produced and have been in force since January 2015.
The standards apply to:
Academies that opened from 2010 and agreed funding prior to June 2014 are not bound by the standards, although the previous Government stated that almost all of these schools would adhere to the standards voluntarily.
Funding for school meals is provided as part of the Dedicated Schools Grant.
Free school meals are provided for children whose parents receive certain benefits (or who are on those benefits themselves):
Free school meals may also be available to pre-school children and those in school sixth forms. Local authorities are responsible for providing free school lunches and applications must be made through the relevant local body.
Since September 2014, free school meals have been provided for all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. Concerns have been raised that, as schools receive Pupil Premium funding for pupils registered for free school meals, this additional provision may reduce schools’ funding if parents do not register their children for meals they receive as a matter of course.
Eligibility for free school meals will alter as Universal Credit is rolled out and several of the existing qualifying benefits for free school meals are abolished. Following a consultation, the Government announced in February 2017 it would be introducing an earnings threshold for eligibility through Universal Credit from April 2018, with some protections in place for existing claimants.