School meals

Find out about school meals, including free school meals

Contents of this page

Free school meals

For children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2

All children are entitled to receive a free school meal, regardless of household income, providing they are in a Government-funded school and in Reception, Year 1, or Year 2. This entitlement is called Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM).

You'll need to let your school know that you'd like to take advantage of this entitlement.

Most schools will also check if you are eligible for benefits-related free school meals when you request UIFSM. Even if you are entitled to UIFSM, if you get any of these benefits, it's still worth making an application for benefits-related free school meals as well. If you are eligible, your child's school may receive extra funding.

Speak to your school about how to apply.

For children in year 3 and older

Older children may be entitled to free school meals if you get any of these benefits. Speak to your school about how to apply.

Why apply for free school meals?

  • If eligible, you could save hundreds of pounds a year.
  • School meals are healthy and nutritious and have to meet the Government's School Food Standards
  • If eligible, your child's school may be able to claim additional funding.
  • The current rules mean that if you apply for free school meals and receive an eligible result now, your child's entitlement will be protected until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they're in on 31 March 2025 - even if your circumstances change.

Paying for school meals

If your child is in year 3 or above and is not eligible for free school meals, you will need to pay for school meals.

Check the payment arrangements with your school. Some schools offer online payment.

Financial help

If you are struggling or feel that you are unable to make ends meet, call our dedicated helpline on 0300 200 1008 and we will help.

During the school holidays, when free school meals are not available, there is help for families who need additional support.

We also have a webpage with details of other financial help available.

Schools are able to procure a school meal provider of their choice, or the school may provide an in-house service. To see the menu at your child's primary or secondary school, special school or sixth form, visit the website for your school.

Your school can also provide you with information on how it is managing and delivering its school food plan.

Did you know? Surrey County Council has a service that delivers school meals to a number of Surrey schools. If you would like to find out more about the service or wish to make a prospective enquiry about the provision of school meals at a school, please visit the Twelve15 website.

Did you find this information helpful?

Subscribe to our newsletters for latest news and events.