School food and free school meals
  • A to Z
  • Newsroom
  • Contact us
  • Accessibility
  • A- A+

School food and free school meals

Universal free school meals for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils

From September 2014 all children in reception, year 1 and year 2 in state-funded schools in England will receive free school meals.

Please see the frequently asked questions section for more information. Further information is available at the school food plan website and the children's food trust website.

We’re working hard to make sure our school lunches are tasty, and healthy, as well as making lunchtime comfortable and fun for everyone.

Year 3 and above

If you’re on benefits, your child may be entitled to free school meals no matter what year they are in which could save you £420 per year per child.​

You are entitled to free school meals if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit with an annual income of less than £16,190, provided they are not receiving Working Tax Credit
  • The ‘Guaranteed’ element of the State Pension Credit
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Please note: People receiving Working Tax Credit, regardless of their income level, do not qualify.

To claim please speak to your child's school. Further information can be found on our How to claim free school meals page.

To find out if you are eligible ask at the school office or call Leeds Revenues and Benefits Service on 0113 222 4404.

Year 10 pupils in Leeds have recorded a series of videos which are available to view on YouTube.​​

Click to expandWhat type of meal will my child receive?

​Although the government would prefer all children be given a hot meal, many schools in Leeds will be offering 3 options: a meat based hot meal, a vegetarian hot meal and a sandwich option or similar, as well as a drink and dessert. All meals should meet the school food standards. The standards will ensure that your child will be offered fresh fruit and veg and healthier drinks at lunchtime, and get the essential nutrients they need.

Your school will either have a caterer or will provide their own catering. Many caterers prepare their food fresh on site in the school kitchen, some may use some frozen foods or pre-prepared foods. Some schools may get their food delivered hot from another school.

Your school should have menus available on their website. If this is not the case, contact the school and ask for one. 

Click to expandHow will this benefit my child?

​Your child will be receiving a healthy balanced meal at lunch providing a high amount of minerals and nutrients. Schools involved in a pilot study for universal free school meals, showed that pupils are 2 to 3 months ahead academically than those who don’t have scool meals. School meals will help expose your child to a bigger variety of foods and it may help with the progression of social skills and encourage healthy eating habits for life.

Click to expandCan my child still have a packed lunch?

​In the pilot areas where they trialled free school meals, only small numbers of children chose packed lunch, and many schools in Leeds have active packed lunch policies that advise on healthy packed lunches. But, the government hopes you will give school meals a go. It’s likely that children will want to eat school lunch because many of their friends will also be eating a school lunch. Some schools have active parent groups, who work together with other parents to encourage children to eat school meals.

Click to expandAre school meals healthier than packed lunches?

​All school meals are expected to meet the government’s food standards introduced in 2006. School meals are, therefore, healthy and balanced in terms of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. High sugar content and foods high in fat are restricted. It is extremely hard to get a packed lunch to meet such high standards. Recent studies have shown only 1% of packed lunches actually meet these standards and that children who have packed lunches generally consume higher amounts of fat, salt and sugar.

Click to expandWhat if my child is a fussy eater?

Encouraging your child to have a school meal will help your child be exposed to new foods. Because the other pupils are having the same food this may also encourage your child to try new foods. Many schools are holding taster sessions for parents and children to try new foods and get used to the menus. Some parents that know what is on the menu will give their child the chance to try it at home first. Many schools have rewards in place if children have tried a new food or eaten most of their meal which encourages the children.

Click to expandWhat if my child has dietary requirements?

​Most caterers have a nutritionist to help with this. Make your school aware of what it is your child requires or should be avoiding. Many schools in Leeds offer cultural specific diets such as vegetarian or halal options.

If your child has an allergy, your school will ask for a medical certificate or letter from the doctor. The school and caterer will then work with you and your child to alter their menu specific to your child’s needs.​

Click to expandMy child already gets free school meals - how does this affect me?

​In Leeds, one form is used to apply for free school meals, council tax support and rent allowance. Therefore, if you apply for these benefits, your child will continue to receive their school meals as they have always done so. Some people who are eligible for free school meals do not fill in the form if they will not benefit from the council tax support or rent allowance. An example would be a single parent living with their parents. When you apply for these benefits, the school get additional funding for your child, called the Pupil Premium. It is therefore very important you continue to fill in this form. If you are unsure whether you are eligible you should ask your school office. Support is also available at One Stop centres, housing offices, or the Leeds Benefits Service Helpline: 0113 222 4404.

To view documents in PDF format you will require the free Download Adobe Reader Adobe Acrobat Reader

Did you find the information you were looking for?

Follow us:

  • youtube