The Cost of Missing Lunchtime: A briefing on free school meals in the North East

Post date: 
12 May 2021

New calculations carried out by Child Poverty Action Group, Children North East and the North East Child Poverty Commission show that one in four North East children living below the UK poverty line (over 35,000 children) are not currently eligible for free school meals, and therefore miss out on the many proven benefits associated with the policy. In addition, more than one in ten North East children (11 per cent) who are eligible for free school meals do not take up this offer, meaning they do not benefit from the support that they are entitled to. Read The Cost of Missing Lunchtime, our briefing on free school meals in the North East of England. 

The three organisations have made three key recommendations:

  • The government must restore the previous free school meals eligibility threshold (in place prior to April 2018) which included all families in receipt of universal credit. This should also be extended to all those on equivalent benefits.
  • Local authorities should review their free school meal policies, processes and practices to ensure they are maximising the number of families taking up their free school meal entitlement.
  • Schools should work to identify and address any existing policies or practices that either prevent pupils taking up their free school meal entitlement or further disadvantage them.

Increasing access to free school meals won’t end child poverty alone, but it will go some way towards supporting children’s learning and health outcomes, as well as helping families financially as they recover from the effects of pandemic.