The future of Universal Infant Free School Meals

5 March 2020

It appears that the Department for Education is tasked with reviewing the value of Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) so for those yet to understand the benefits of the ground-breaking policy, here's a little refresher.

When trawling through documents on UIFSM, we came across a really useful infographic that presented the arguments in a really effective way. This excellent resource was produced by the Department for Education (spot the irony) and, in the light of the recent article in SchoolsWeek, is worth revisiting:

  1. Improving social mobility Back in June 2017 when UIFSM was under threat, The Children's Society calculated that there were four million children in the UK growing up in poverty, set to rise sharply to five million by 2020. Many of these children are from families that do not qualify for free school meals. UIFSM ensures that every infant child living in poverty will receive a free school meal, and without fear of stigma.
  2. Health benefits NCMP data shows us that one in three children in year six are overweight or obese. A new study by University of Essex is producing encouraging results on the impact of UIFSM on healthy weight. Each day 87% of infants enjoy a hot, nutritionally balanced free school meal which normalises healthy eating from the very first day at school.
  3. Savings for families The savings to the famiily budget are significant with parents saving over £400 per year per child. This is vital for those low-income families falling in and out of entitlement owing to the complexities of Universal Credit.
  4. Packed lunches v school meals No contest! New research from University of Leeds confirms that packed lunches are no match for a healthy school meal. The findings, published in the journal BMJ Open, showed that just 1.6% primary school packed lunches met the nutritional standards set for school meals, less than a fifth (17 per cent) contained any vegetables or salad, while more than half (52 per cent) contained too many sweet snacks.


Our top four doesn't even consider the boost to jobs in the school catering industry, the increased market security for our farmers or, indeed, the positive impact on attainment and attendance shown in the evaluation of original universal free school meal pilots in 2010. But for now, please carefully consider this infographic and remember all the good reasons why this policy came to pass and why it's worth fighting for.

In other news ...

Department for Education

Updated guidance on free school meals during school closures

31 March 2020

DfE has updated guidance for schools on free school meals during school closures. First port of call is always your school caterer. If your caterer is unable to support, the voucher scheme is explained and DfE has settled on £15 per child per week.

International School Meals Day

12 March 2020

On International School Meals Day it’s worth celebrating the fantastic job done by school cooks and caterers across the world to make sure children at school are happy healthy and ready to learn.

Three cheers for schools and their caterers!

20 March 2020

We've been hearing such inspiring stories from our schools and catering teams that we thought we should write to Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson.