Over 1 million children in poverty miss out on free school meals

More than half of all school-aged children living in poverty do not receive free school meals, finds The Children’s Society in Fair and Square: Free School Meals for All Children in Poverty.

The Children’s Society highlight that about one-third of school-aged children in England – around 700,000 in total – live in poverty but are not entitled to receive free school meals, mainly because one of their parents is in work. A further 500,000 do not take up free meals even though they are entitled to do so. This is 1.2 million children in total who do not receive free school meals despite living in poverty.

The report:

  • calls on the government to ensure that all children in poverty are entitled to receive free school meals, and to promote work incentives by extending entitlement to school children in families in receipt of the new universal credit (from October 2013)
  • says that all local authorities and school providers should introduce cashless systems in order to ‘de-stigmatise’ the receipt of free school meals
  • urges the government to review the extent to which maintained schools and academies are adhering to the nutritional standards for school food; and whether secondary school pupils who take up free school meals are receiving enough to buy a full and nutritious meal, with a range of choices available within a budget.

The report (Sam Royston, Laura Rodrigues and David Hounsell, Fair and Square: Free School Meals for All Children in Poverty, The Children’s Society) and a press release are available from The Children’s Society website.