#FeedtheFuture

Almost one million children living in poverty in England are not eligible for free school meals. Extend free school meals now.

The harsh eligibility criteria for free school meals mean that too many children are missing out.

Latest from the campaign:

Labour and Conservative voters overwhelmingly back giving free school meals to more children

 

What do we want?

Campaign logo of dinner plate with text reading "feed the future"

#FeedtheFuture campaigners are calling on both the Conservative and Labour parties to commit to nationally expanding the eligibility to all children, urgently targeting children in households receiving Universal Credit as a priority.

  • Labour and Conservative voters back giving free school meals to more children
    Labour and Conservative voters back giving free school meals to more children
  • Voters think the current FSM threshold is inadequate or shouldn't exist
    Voters think the current FSM threshold is inadequate or shouldn't exist
  • Public thinks expanding FSM is a good use of public funds
    Public thinks expanding FSM is a good use of public funds

What can I do?


Ask your MP to end the school food postcode lottery now using this pre-drafted email.

Ask your MP to end the school food postcode lottery now

Why is this important?

Nearly one million children living in poverty in England are not eligible for a free school meal.

This is because their families' household incomes are over £7,400 per year (post-tax, pre-benefits), so the government considers them too well off to need this support.

It cannot be right that children are too hungry to learn, and not addressing this will only exacerbate inequalities.

We also know that school food is the best option for children, as packed lunches do not offer the same nutritional value.

  • Children learn better if they are properly fed
    Children learn better if they are properly fed
  • Properly fed children are happier, healthier and more successful
    Properly fed children are happier, healthier and more successful

How will this help?

The threshold for eligibility for free school meals means that one in three children living in poverty in England cannot access this support. For many, a school lunch can be the only hot meal they have in a day.

Extending entitlement to all children from families in receipt of universal credit will mean including nearly one million children currently missing out. It is a change to the threshold that can be implemented immediately, as families and the government already know who is in receipt of benefits.

This would be the right first step towards providing free school meals for all children, a progressive policy that can bring numerous benefits.

  • Millions of families are struggling to pay their bills
    Millions of families are struggling to pay their bills
  • Extending free school meals would help feed their children
    Extending free school meals would help feed their children

What are the current eligibility criteria?

For their children to qualify for a free school meal, a family on universal credit must have a combined household income below £7,400 per year (pre-benefits, post-tax).

It doesn't matter how many people are working or how many children there are in the household.

FSM are also available to some children from families with no recourse to public funds. All children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 also get a FSM under the Universal Infant Free School Meals Policy.

In February, the Mayor of London announced funding for all Key Stage 2 (Years 3 - 6) children in London schools to receive free school meals for the 2023/2024 academic year to help families with the spiralling cost of living crisis.

A handful of London boroughs, which were already funding free school meals for all KS2 children, have decided to use the additional funding to extend free school meals to even more pupils. They include Westminster, which will fund additional meals for those in early years settings and in Key Stage 3. Tower Hamlets will become the first local authority in the country to provide truly universal free school meals.

Graphic showing different free school meal eligibility criteria across the UK's devolved nations
The latest data show more children are receiving free school meals than ever before under the current system.

What evidence is there of the benefits?

There is a growing national and international body of research demonstrating the educational, mental and physical health, societal, and economic benefits reaped from quality school food.

We have compiled an evidence pack summarising much of this with plenty of references for further reading.

Have a look at the evidence here.

Would extending free school meals be worth it?

Beyond the moral imperative of ensuring hungry children have access to the nutrition they need, there is a growing body of evidence for the mulititude of benefits that school meals bring.

As part of the School Food Review, Impact on Urban Health commissioned PwC to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of extending free school meals. 

The analysis has found that both of our asks produce positive returns on investment, over a 20-year period. The conservative estimates are that

  1. Extending to those on universal credit will cost £6.4 billion and return £25.1 billion
  2. Extending to all schoolchildren will cost £24.2 billion and return £99.5 billion

Read more here:

We launch our Feed the Future campaign with an ambitious cost-benefit analysis of free school meals.
School Food Review logo

Who else supports extending free school meals?

Feed the Future is a campaign that has come from the School Food Review and the End Child Food Poverty Coalition.

The School Food Review Working Group's membership represents over 30 organisations, uniting the voices of charities, schools, local authorities, academics, caterers and, of course, schoolchildren.

The End Child Food Poverty Coalition campaigned with Marcus Rashford for greater support during the pandemic.

We also know a majority of the public, many experts and many public figures support more children having free school meals. These include:

New polling reveals continued public support for expanding free school meals to more children.