School food and free school meals
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School food and free school meals

Free school meals

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 Welfare and Benefits Service on 0113 222 4404.

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


Universal infant free school meals

All children in reception, year 1 and year 2 in state-funded schools in England receive free school meals. Please see the frequently asked questions section for more information. Further information is available below, or on the school food plan website and the children's food trust website. You don’t need to apply for infant free school meals and most schools will encourage all pupils to take up this offer.

If you’re on benefits and your child is entitled to universal infant free school meals anyway, it’s still important to register for a free school meal to ensure your child’s school doesn’t miss out on funding called pupil premium.

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


Paid school meals

For pupils in year 3 up to, and including, year 12 (while still in full time school education), who aren’t eligible for a free school meal, there is an option to pay for a school meal. The cost of a school meal can vary in different schools and each school will set their own price. This can range from £1.60-£2.40 (purchasing individual items can cost more in secondary schools). Schools should provide information on their websites or you can contact the school directly to find out the cost and preferred payment method.


Packed lunches

Most schools provide the option for pupils to bring in their lunch from home to consume on school site. Leeds City Council works with schools and encourages them to develop their own packed lunch guidance or polices to ensure all meals are healthy, nutritious and balanced. School polices should be mindful of special diets, allergies or intolerances and consider affordable and cultural foods.

​​​

Click to expandWhat type of meal will my child receive?

Many schools in Leeds will offer different options such as: 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. These standards ensure that your child will be offered fresh fruit and vegetables and healthier drinks at lunchtime, and get the essential nutrients they need.​

Click to expandWhat's on the menu?

Your school should have menus available on their website. If this is not the case, contact the school and ask for it. Some schools also enable you to pre-order school meals with your child/children and some high schools may be able to provide you with a breakdown of what they have purchased.

Your school will either work with a catering company or 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.​

Click to expandWho provides and cooks the school meals in Leeds?

Your school will either work with a catering company or 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.​

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. School meals will help expose your child to a wider 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?

Most schools do encourage all infants to choose a free school meal, promoting equality and ensuring all pupils have access to a nutritious meal while at school. Similarly, if your child is eligible for a free school meal, they will be encouraged to take this to ensure they don’t miss out on the heathy meal that can help them to learn and play at school. All other pupils may choose to bring in a balanced packed lunch that meets the school’s healthy packed lunch guidance or policy.​

Click to expandAre school meals healthier than packed lunches?

All school meals are expected to meet the school food standards that were revised in 2015, especially if they are a ‘Healthy School’. 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 challenging to get a packed lunch to meet such high standards. Recent studies have shown that only 1% of packed lunches actually met the original food standards, which were first introduced in 2006.​

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 hold taster sessions for parents and children to try new foods and get used to the menus. Some parents, who 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 helps encourage 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 options such as vegetarian or halal.

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 specifically to meet 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 choose not to benefit from the council tax support or rent allowance. An example of this 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.​​

Click to expandWhat about Universal Credit?

​​

Universal Credit is currently being introduced in stages across the country, starting with newly unemployed, single people. It will gradually be introduced to other groups of people over the next few years. Therefore, it is not affecting existing families in Leeds. Families who move from outside of Leeds are currently being awarded a free school meal automatically.​

Click to expandWhat if my circumstances change?

​​

You should notify the Local Authority or School if:

  • You start work and come off benefits
  • Your benefit changes
  • You change address
  • Your child changes school
  • You have another child starting school for the first time

Failure to notify your Local Authority or School of any changes to your benefit may mean you have to pay for any meals taken whilst you were not eligible. ​


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