Free School Meals - January 2023

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about the campaign to provide free school meals to all children in primary schools.

I am aware of a 10 Minute Rule Bill on this subject which has been raised by the MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana. I am told that it will most likely be brought back before the House for its Second Reading on the 24th March this year and we shall see whether there is the parliamentary time available for it to be heard.

In the meantime I have outlined my thoughts, at this stage, regarding free school meals. I believe it is imperative that children have regular healthy and balanced meals throughout the day, to ensure they are able to thrive in the classroom. The Government is also keenly aware of the impact that the cost of living crisis is having on families across the country. There is further information on the support available on my website -

Free school meal eligibility is set out in the following link: Apply for free school meals - GOV.UK (

I understand that there have been some concerns about free school meals not being extended to include provision for all students at school. The Government has extended eligibility for free school meals several times, and to more groups of children than any other over the past half century, which now targets those most in need.

Over a third of pupils in England currently receive free school meals in education settings and the Government has recently announced a further investment in the National School Breakfast Programme, extending the programme for another year until July 2024, backed by up to £30 million.

The Department spends over £1 billion each year on free school meals, including through the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme and school breakfast clubs. This includes around £600 million on Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM). In June 2022, the Government allocated £18 million of additional funding for UIFSM to help schools provide for the 1.25 million children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 with a free, healthy and nutritious lunch, in recognition of the rising cost of living.

The Department for Education has also recently extended the Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF), for further three years, which runs during major school holidays. The HAF programme has so far received over £200 million in funding, and is delivered by all 152 local authorities in England during the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays. It provides healthy meals, enriching activities and free childcare places to children from low-income families. I am aware that the Department for Education has also recently held meetings with supermarkets to work with the Department to provide more support for the HAF programme in the coming months.

Wider welfare support is available through the Household Support Fund, which helps vulnerable families in need with essentials, such as food and utility bills and the support available through this fund totals £2.5 billion and is in addition to other support being provided. In addition, parents are being assisted with increased cost of living through a package of support totalling £37 billion which will provide between £400 and £1,650 to all households, with those in low income households such as means tested benefits receiving the greatest payments and more information is set out in the above link.

Further, as of this year, approximately 50,000 more children are benefitting from a free school meal compared to under the previous benefits system.

Thank you for getting in touch.