The new research shows that in the month after the first COVID-19 lockdown, 49% of eligible children did not receive any form of free school meal (FSM).
The analysis highlights that the voucher scheme did not adequately serve children who could not attend school during the lockdown, and was not an acceptable substitute for standard FSM provision. The research also found that FSM access differed by income level, school type and country; and that access to a free school meal was associated with the recent use of a food bank.
The research team conclude that without increased support, low-income families will continue to be at risk of increased food insecurity and negative health consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the event of further school closures. They suggest school-level comparisons could provide valuable lessons on which forms of substitute FSMs were most effective.
We remain concerned at the patchy response to feeding the nation’s children, and this research is further evidence that the current FSM scheme needs improving. We will continue to advocate for an extension to free school meals eligibility, as recommended in the National Food Strategy.