Money Wellness
Image of several primary school age children eating a school dinner. Free school meals - who is eligible and how do you apply
calendar icon29 Apr 2024

Charity calls for metro mayor candidates to make school meals free for all children

As part of his manifesto for re-election as London mayor, Sadiq Kahn has confirmed that he’ll make free school meals for all primary school children permanent.

This has led to the charity, The Food Foundation, calling for all metro mayoral candidates to confirm their commitment to the initiative, which it believes will bring an end to the school food postcode lottery that leaves struggling families outside the capital at a disadvantage.

The charity’s open letter to the candidates was signed by more than 80 people, including celebrity chefs Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, as well as academics, councillors, doctors, and health organisations, such as the Royal College of Peadiatrics and Child Health and the National Education Union.

Kate Anstey, Head of Education Policy at Child Poverty Action Group, said: “We expect kids to give their all at school but….thousands of local children don’t have the food they need to concentrate and learn.

“We’re asking mayoral candidates to do the right thing and back free school meals for all children.

“When all kids get free lunches, children’s health and learning improves, parents have one less cost to worry about and home-school relations are bolstered because dinner-money-debt-worries are taken away.”

What are free school meals?

Families on a low income or claiming certain means-tested benefits could be entitled to free school meals for their children.

If your child gets free school meals, you’ll also qualify for the holiday activity and food programme. Funded by the Department for Education, the scheme offers free physical and creative activities and healthy meals and snacks during school holidays.

Who qualifies for free school meals?

Your child might be entitled to free school meals if you receive one of the following benefits:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseekers allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of state pension credit
  • Child tax credit (if your income is below £16,190 and you’re not also entitled to working tax credit)
  • Working tax credit run-on
  • Universal credit (with an annual net income of less than £7,400)

Your child might also be provided with a free lunch if you’re on a low income. The criteria of which differs depending on where you live. To quality, you must earn:

  • Less than £22,700 if you live outside of London with one child
  • Less than £26,300 if you live outside of London with two or more children

Why do all children receive free school meals in London?

Sadiq Khan introduced free school meals for all primary school pupils living in London in September 2023.

The move has benefitted 270,000 children. It was implemented to help support families during the cost-of-living crisis. The London mayor also believes that providing free school meals for all reduces the stigma associated with being singled out as low-income.

How do I apply for free school meals for my child?

You can check to see if your child is eligible for free school meals and apply online at Gov.UK

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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