Free school meals: Eligibility and how to apply

·3-min read
Free school meals applications are made through the local council (Ben Birchall / PA)
Free school meals applications are made through the local council (Ben Birchall / PA)

Sadiq Khan revealed plans to offer free school lunches to all primary school students in London next academic year.

The 270,000 students who are not already receiving free meals and 100,000 of whom are believed to live in poverty will be supported by the £130 million programme.

The change, which will be paid for by higher-than-anticipated business rates revenues, will save families in the capital about £440 per child over the course of the year.

The remaining students who don’t meet the eligibility for free school meals, such as those in secondary school whose parents earn above a certain amount, will have to pay. Here is a reminder on eligibility for free school meals and how to apply if you do qualify.

Who is eligible for free school meals?

Your child may be eligible for free school meals if their parent or guardian receives any of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit

  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)

  • Working Tax Credit run-on

Free school meals are also available to children who receive these benefits directly, as opposed to through a parent or guardian.

All children in reception, year one, and year two receive free school meals, known as the Universal Infant Free School Meal Programme.

How to apply for free school meals?

A claim must be submitted by the student, their parent, or another responsible adult through their local council.

Once you submit the application, you will be notified right away if you are qualified.

If the outcome is uncertain, you will be asked to upload additional proof of your benefit(s) before completing the application form. This will be reviewed, and you will find out within 15 working days whether you are eligible for free school meals or not.

You will then be emailed to confirm the start date of your child's free school meals, usually the next working day.

Your child will be eligible for the Holiday Activity and Food Programme if they are also eligible for free school meals. There may be food coupons offered by the Household Support Fund as well.

In order to apply for free school meals in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland, you must follow different procedures.

When is the next free school meals payment?

In England, free school meal payments are made directly to your child’s school.

How much are school dinners?

Schools set their own prices for school meals. For additional information, get in touch with your child's school.

In terms of paying for school dinners, typically, pupils in primary schools are required to make a weekly or termly payment to the school administrator.

There are cashless systems in use in secondary schools. You can learn more about the system that each school employs by contacting them directly.