Universal Infant Free School Meals

Since September 2014, school meals have been free to all infant school children. We need to work hard to safeguard this policy and demonstrate to government the benefits of making school meals free.

Campaign update - It's Official

In case you missed it, schools minister, Nick Gibb, finally confirmed that UIFSM were here to stay during Education Questions. You can read more here.

Campaign update - Mission Accomplished!

It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride but with a fantastic team effort involving parents, heads, campaigners, charities and caterers we have managed to keep the Conversative Party pledge to scrap UIFSM out of the Queen's Speech. This means that the policy is safe (for now) but we will all need to pull together and press government to evaluate the policy - as they promised to do back in 2014 - so we have the evidence to show that infant free school meals matter.

There are lots of people to thank - here are a few that we've had the pleasure of working with:

  • Tim Baker at Charlton Manor Primary School for leading the charge with the head's petition which finally reached 160,000 signatures!
  • The parents and schools that follow School Food Matters who added another 2,335 signatures via our newsletter and Twitter campaigns
  • Orla Delargy at Leon for her awesome PR skills, getting the campaign front and centre in the press
  • The might of Jamie Oliver HQ for steering us through the world of social media so that we could reach thousands rather than hundreds 
  • Our friends at Food for Life for speedily pulling together and chairing the 'battle planning' group
  • Sustain and the Children's Food Campaign for their careful research and fact checking
  • Headteachers and friends of SFM who wrote compelling case studies to demonstrate the importance of UIFSM and the impact of scrapping it.

There are many more folk out there who contributed and if we all continue to stick together, we can make sure that infant free school meals are here to stay!


Six good reasons for infant free school meals

We're been trawling through the archives and found these really handy infographics from 2014 produced by our very own government. We don't believe the arguments have changed so let's dust them off again. Perhaps the politicians might find them useful?

The battle to save UIFSM

As the election gets closer, the battle to save infant free school meals is hotting up. We're working with our partners at Jamie Oliver, Leon, Sustain, Food for Life, Children's Food Trust and many others and we've all contributed to what's becoming a veritable press storm! Coverage is listed below and please don't forget to play your part by signing the petition!

UIFSM Media Coverage:

Times: Scrapping free lunches ‘risks thousands of jobs’ (£)

Evening Standard: Row erupts over Theresa May's plans to axe free lunches for young pupils

Buzzfeed: A Headteacher Says Her School Will Have To Close Its Kitchen Because Of The Tories' School Lunch Plans

ChronicleLive: Tory free school breakfast budget will fund just '12 baked beans on bread or 37.5 cornflakes’

Independent: The health cost of cutting free school lunches will be far greater than the price of them

Mirror: Nearly 17,000 school dinner staff face redundancy thanks to Tory plans to scrap free lunches 

Inews: Scrapping free lunches ‘will hit 250,000 poor pupils’

Footprint News: Jamie Oliver leads calls for school meals u-turn

NurseyWorld: Cost of Tory free breakfast plans 'could treble'

Public Finance: Tory free breakfast plan undercosted, says think-tank

Guardian: “We abandon free school lunches at our peril”

TES: Tories pledge free breakfasts for all primary pupils but fund only a quarter

Independent:  Election 2017: Conservatives’ free school breakfast pledge ‘costed at just 7p per meal’

The Caterer:  Jamie Oliver and Leon founders hits out at Tory plans to scrap free school lunches

DayNurseries.co.uk: Nearly one million low income children hit by plan to ditch free school meals

Evening Standard: Headteacher's post slamming Tory pledge to cut free school lunches goes viral 

Independent: Yotam Ottolenghi ‘Theresa May's favourite chef speaks out against plans to scrap free school lunches’

Election 2017 - A troubling development

The election manifestos are out and whilst Labour and the Lib Dems are promising an extension to UIFSM to include all primary school children, the Conservatives are promising to scrap the policy. We wrote to the PM back in April outlining reasons to keep the policy and recommending that the government build on this commitment to children's health. We want to see:

  • auto-enrolment for pupil premium to ensure that help gets to the children who need it most
  • a review of Universal Infant Free School Meals funding formula to ensure that the policy is adequately and fairly funded
  • cross-government support for the Childhood Obesity Plan and the School Food Plan so that we can deliver and build on the actions outlined
  • school food standards made mandatory in all schools.


Sadly it appears Mrs May has ignored our submission so we'll be gathering with charity partners to boldly defend UIFSM.  More soon!

Universal Infant Free School Meals

Amongst the 16 School Food Plan actions was a recommendation; that school meals should be free to all primary school children. It was a wonderful moment when, in September 2013, we learned that this recommendation was to become the 17th action. SFM went on to contribute to an External Reference Group set up by Department for Education to advise on the policy. 

In September 2014, following an enormous mobilisation exercise, 98.5% of schools with infants offered a free hot school meal. Take-up of the free meal was over 85% and heads and parents agreed that the benefits to health and savings to the family budget were unequivocal.  That's why we jumped into action when, in September 2015, we heard rumours that the policy was in danger of being cut. With campaign partners we produced a series of letters to the Sunday Times from heads, health professionals and food poverty campaigners. This lively campaign was supported by over 40,000 people who signed a parliament petition

Thankfully the policy survived November's Spending Review but we'll need to remain vigilant, gather evidence and make a convincing case to ensure that UIFSM is here to stay.