Our Support for Free School Meals

At Food for Life, we believe in a world where every child enjoys at least one healthy meal a day

For over twenty years we have been bringing schools, nurseries, hospitals, care homes and their surrounding communities together around the core ethos of healthy, tasty and sustainable food. 

Our mission, through our Food for Life Awards scheme, is to support schools to embed a whole school approach to food, providing healthy school meals, great lunchtimes, and food education that has a positive impact on both pupils and the wider community. This is also achieved by working with caterers via our Food for Life Served Here scheme to put food on the menu that’s better for people and the planet while keeping within their budget.

We’re about encouraging lasting and sustainable change to the way we all think about food, our communities, our environment and our health.

Whilst the work continues for every child to have a healthy and sustainable  meal every day, there are approximately 800,000 children in England who live in poverty yet don’t qualify for Free School Meals. This is unacceptable. 

Things are only getting worse. In 2022, food prices rose by 16.9%, stretching budgets even further. 

School meals are a great opportunity for every child to enjoy at least one delicious meal for over half of the days in a  year. School meals generally contain more vegetables, less sodium and fewer processed foods than a packed lunch. Introducing a diverse range of fresh foods  early in a child’s life can support better food habits and healthy eating into the future, and a universal approach to providing school meals increases the uptake of school meals. This means more children can benefit from this nutritional safety net. 

What do we want to see?

We want to see the government provide healthy and high-quality school meals  for all school children in the UK. At a minimum, food served in schools must meet the school food standards.

Caterers are already facing enormous challenges due to the cost-of-living crisis and investment is needed in staff and kitchens. A staged approach will be necessary to ensure all school children can enjoy the benefits of universal school meal provision.

As a first step, the 800,000 children currently living in poverty who are not eligible for Free School Meals need to be included. 

What are we doing about this?

Our Policy Officer Laura Chan has put together a summary of evidence in support of Universal Free School Meals, which demonstrates through a range of research and studies the proven benefits of Universal Free School Meals. 

We’re a part of the LACA’s cross-sector round table along with caterers and campaigning groups to draw up key messages and arguments to present to government. We are pleased to be part of this cross-sector group looking to align behind clear asks of government around school food. You can read our key findings from these meetings here.  

We convened a roundtable with FFL caterers representative of the sector. You can read the summary of our findings from our roundtable here

We are part of the School Food Review Working Group which is working to improve school food across the 5 pillars including entitlement and ensuring food quality.

We are also members of the School Food Plan Alliance which came together after the publication of the School Food Plan in 2013. We were one of the national specialist organisations who supported the development of The School Food Plan which outlines 17 actions to transform food in schools, including a recommendation for a phased roll-out of Universal Free School Meals. 

We’re supporting Sustain’s campaign to #SayYes to School Food for All. If you believe every child should have access to free school meals, add your name to their map to be delivered to Government later this year.

Commission Our Work

in Food for Life schools eat around a third more fruit and vegetables than pupils in comparison schools, and significantly more fruit and vegetables at home.