Why school meals?

School meals have changed a lot – they’re tastier, healthier and a lot more fun. National Guidelines, developed by us, set out how school meals should meet children’s nutritional needs.

The proof of the pudding’s in the eating: the number of families opting for school meals has been on the rise.

Research shows the average school lunch is healthier than around 9 out of every 10 lunchboxes. That’s because good nutrition is all about eating lots of different foods. It takes planning and effort to do this with a packed lunch (hands up if you pack the same sandwich filling each day with yoghurt, a piece of fruit and a drink?), but it’s far easier with a hot meal.

Fussy eaters often thrive on school meals – many parents tell us their kids have tried all sorts of foods in schools that they refuse at home. They’re also a great way for children to improve their eating habits and to learn about the social side of eating with their friends

Schools don’t have to offer school meals at all if they choose not to, as long as they make sure children claiming free school meals are provided for.

As of September 2014, all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 at state-funded schools get school meals for free.

Signing up for school meals

Talk to your child’s school. You’ll also often find information on the school’s website or newsletter. If you think you might qualify for free school meals, your school or council will be able to help you register. This is well worth doing – you can save hundreds of pounds each year and make sure your child’s having a good lunch.