Providing free school meals to all secondary pupils is “feasible and acceptable”

31 March 2023
A pilot study in Hammersmith and Fulham has found that providing free school meals for all secondary school pupils is a feasible intervention for improving nutrition.

In a pilot that begin in January 2020, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) provided all pupils in two of its secondary schools with free school meals (FSM). Partnering with the University of Bristol, LBHF used the pilot to research the feasibility and benefits of universal free school meals (UFSM) in secondary schools.

The study found that UFSM is feasible, acceptable, and makes sense as an intervention to increase access to healthy food, reduce food insecurity, and improve nutrition. UFSM was perceived to support more low-income families than the government’s benefit-related FSM provision. The report recommends that the government funds a large-scale study of UFSM in secondary schools.

Numerous benefits were identified by members of the school community: preventing hunger, improving food quality, improved behaviour, and reduced stigma. Staff and parents involved in the study felt that paying for the meals of families who did not need financial support was a price worth paying to ensure all pupils had enough to eat at school.

In both schools, the scheme saw an increase in the number of children who were already eligible for FSM deciding to eat a school lunch. In one school this rose from 55% of FSM-eligible pupils to 78%.

“Our canteen is now full of students enjoying a warm, healthy meal together which enables great social interaction. We are seeing greater focus in afternoon lessons and more students staying on for after school activities than ever before. The UFSM offer is making a genuine difference to our school community.”

  • Sally Brooks, Executive Principal, Fulham Cross Academy Trust

We are pleased to hear yet more evidence that UFSM is not only possible but has the potential to generate numerous benefits. It is time the government stopped means testing children for food. If you agree, and say ‘yes’ to school food for all, pledge your support here.

You can find out more about the study here.