Parents back extension of free school meals eligibility

10 September 2020

New research from Children's Food Campaign and Food Active has revealed 9 in 10 parents would support the Government reviewing and expanding eligibility for free school meals to all children living in very low-income and food insecure families.

The survey, conducted with over 750 parents, paints a vivid picture of how children’s eating and drinking habits were affected during lockdown.

  • 1 in 3 parents (31%) say they had found it harder to maintain healthy, nutritious eating habits whilst children were at home
  • Children ate more crisps (35%), ice creams and lollies (46%), cakes and biscuits (40%), sweets and chocolate (30%)
  • 2 in 5 children (40%) ate more fruit and veg, whilst 1 in 3 (33%) drank more water.


The research also reveals a continued high degree of concern amongst parents about growing levels of children’s food insecurity and hunger.

  • 9 in 10 parents (90%) agreed that the Government should now review eligibility to make free school meals available to ALL children in poverty. Parents also agree that eligibility should be based on income, regardless of immigration status.
  • More than 8 in 10 parents (83%) would also like to see holiday food provision available for all children eligible for Free School Meals.  
  • More than 7 in 10 (73%) support the Government decision to retain Universal Infant Free School Meals, compared to 26% support for restricting free meals to children in poverty only. 
  • Almost 7 in 10 (68%) would like the Universal Infant Free School Meal programme extended to the whole of primary schools. 


The findings strongly endorse recommendations put forward in the National Food Strategy Part One and a growing coalition of organisations, including School Food Matters, Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign, the Food Foundation, the Children’s Society and Bite Back 2030, are all calling on the Government to act quickly to implement them in the forthcoming spending review and Autumn budget.

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