Improving secondary school food provision: barriers and solutions
Free school meal children are treated differently. She is told she can’t buy certain foods on free school meals. It’s like wearing a big badge saying I’m poor. It’s heart breaking to watch her come home hungry as she would rather not go into the lunch hall than have peers laugh at her (Parent)
The Mayor of London's announcement of universal free school meals (FSM) for all children at primary school from September will make a significant difference to low-income families, and remove the stigma faced by thousands of primary pupils currently receiving FSM. However, many secondary school pupils in poverty in London will continue to miss out on FSM next year and those who do qualify will continue to face stigma. CPAG estimates that 120,000 pupils in secondary schools in London are living in poverty but are not eligible for a free school meal. Fortunately, secondary schools can make small changes in their approach to food which can make a big difference to pupils. Helping to improve young people’s lunchtime experience will help them to learn, socialise and thrive.
This briefing draws on our research with schools and families in London and makes suggestions for how schools can remove some of the barriers faced by secondary pupils in receipt of FSM, and those in low-income families who do not currently qualify.
Many of the recommendations in this briefing are small changes that can make a big difference to how young people experience school food. We encourage local authorities, schools and trusts to work with their catering provider to review practices that can inadvertently discriminate against and marginalise pupils from low-income households.