LDHQ: Free School Meals Materials for Start of Term

Our friends at party HQ have created this excellent package of materials promoting our success in delivering Free School Meals. With the new school year around the corner, now is the time to think about exactly how to make the most of this success.


So, good news, Free School Meals will be served up from the first day of term thanks to the Lib Dems – saving families over £400 a year per child.

It works really well as a local story for papers, TV and radio… it also makes great pictures!

I encouraged teams to prepare stories before schools headed off for holidays – so we could get pictures of MPs/councillors in canteens with school children, or dressed as a dinner lady etc.

If you didn’t get a chance, don’t worry, there’s still time. Here’s some other suggestions…

  • Perhaps a visit can be arranged to freshly revamped kitchen ahead of the new school term.
  • Local radio could be primed to do a breakfast show interview on the first day of term…what children and parents can expect etc.
  • A regional TV reporter could be invited to share a meal with the MP/councillor/headteacher/children.
  • Line up a Sure Start-style spokesperson to sing and dance about how fantastic free schools meal will be.
  • An editorial piece on Free School Meals or the focus of a column you may have in the local paper…an example is attached
  • A letter, or two, to local newspapers from supporters of the policy wouldn’t go amiss!

I hope you can make this work. So far, when we have done free school meal stories, it has been gobbled up by local media.

The key is make sure stories are timed to hit the first day school meals are served.

We are getting very close to day one, so let me know if I can help,



– Spreadsheet of local figures showing how many children will benefit in each council area
– A nifty little info graphic to use on social media or your websites


– A potential editorial piece / draft of a letter for local press


– A school meals mythbuster

– Facts and figures on free school meals


  • “This is a waste of money – all disadvantaged kids already get a free school meal”

– 11% of children entitled to free school meals aren’t claiming them and are not benefiting from eating a nutritious meal during the day.

– Approximately 40% of children (from all age groups) living in poverty aren’t eligible to receive a free school meal – universal school free meals will ensure children from poorer backgrounds get a healthy meal at lunchtime.

  • “Money being wasted spent on kids from well-off families could be used to provide free school meals for older children living in poverty”

– Our long term ambition is to make sure all children in primary school receive a free school lunch, but when money is tight you have to start somewhere.

– The School Food Plan recommended a phased roll out. Starting healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits.

  • “Many kids won’t want to eat school lunches – this is a waste of money”

– That’s not true. The take up rates from those areas which already offer universal free school meals, such as Newham (where take-up is typically over 90% of children attending primary school on any given school day), show us that there is a demand for good quality school food.

  • “Free school meals won’t impact on social mobility”

– Eating with friends and other children improves children’s behaviour and can have a real impact on their confidence in the classroom and social interactions.

– The pilots encouraged a culture where children sat down to eat with friends and teachers in a civilised environment. It broadened their social skills, taught table manners and supported equality and fairness by levelling differences in social background.

  • “This policy was thought up ‘on the back of a fag packet’”

– This policy has been five years in the making.

– Pilots of universal Free School Meals run by Department for Education and Department of Health started in 2009 and ran for two years.

– These pilots showed clear benefits for all in terms of educational attainment and healthy eating, but in particular for the poorest children.

– Students were found to be on average two months ahead of their peers elsewhere and around 2% more children reached target levels in Maths and English at Key Stage 1.

  • “Lots of kids won’t get hot meals”

– The DfE has made it clear in its guidance the expectation that pupils should routinely be offered a hot meal option.

– Currently only 0.3% of primary schools in England don’t have facilities to provide hot food.

– And there will always be instances where cold meals such as salad, cold pasta dishes or sandwiches are more appropriate in the summer or when out on school trips.

  • “School meals aren’t that healthy”

– On the contrary, in pilots where all children have been given a free school dinner, there was a 23% increase in the number of children eating vegetables at lunch and an 18% drop in those eating crisps.

– According to the School Food Trust, only 1% of packed lunches meet food based standards, compared to 99% of school meals.

  • “£150m isn’t enough capital funding to build kitchens and extra capacity”

– We’ve put aside £150m of capital funding on the basis of conversations with schools and local authorities about their potential needs.

– Extending free school meals to all infants isn’t going to mean that every school needs to build a new kitchen – some schools will stagger lunch sittings or improve the way they manage queues, or will alter contracts with external providers who prepare the meals elsewhere.

  • “Schools don’t have enough time to make arrangements”

– Based on the experience of the pilots, we’re confident the timetable is achievable.

– The pilots worked from an announcement in March to delivering meals successfully for all primary children in September the same year.

– In addition, we’re putting in an extra £10m to fund an implementation support service to work with schools.

  • “Schools can’t commit to long-term arrangements (e.g. leasing kitchen pods) because they don’t know if this policy will continue”

– To give schools long-term certainty, we’ve legislated in the Children and Families Bill to give all infants a legal entitlement to a free meal.

  • “This will affect/undermine the Pupil Premium”

– Pupil Premium funding won’t be affected by universal free school meals for infants.

– We are already providing guidance to schools and local authorities on how they can ensure that their pupil premium payments are not affected – i.e. via the online universal infant free school meals toolkit.

– Applying for FSM allows parents to access other benefits where they are provided at a local level, for example school transport, milk, school uniform and help with school trips.

– Schools also have a strong incentive – because they will receive £1,300 per eligible child through the pupil premium – to encourage parents to do this.

  • “Subsidising Free School Meals means cutting money elsewhere”

– We’re putting in £1bn of new revenue funding to fund free school meals, based on our estimate of the cost of providing a good school lunch at £2.30 per meal (which in turn is based on previous surveys carried out by the Children’s food Trust) and projected pupil numbers for September 2014.


1.3 million – Number of children and young people who currently receive free school meals.
£500m – Amount that free school meals currently costs per year.
£400 – Amount parents spend on lunch per child per year.
1.5 million – Number of additional children who will benefit from universal free school meals from September 2014.
11% – Percentage of children eligible for free school meals who did not claim their entitlement.
4 in 10 – The number of children living in poverty who aren’t currently eligible to receive a free school meal.
0.3% – Percentage of primary schools which have cold food only provision. 77% of schools that have a full production kitchen. The School Food Trust Annual Survey (2011-12)
£150 million – Amount in capital funding being made available to support local authorities in improving kitchen and dining facilities to provide free school meals.
£1 billion – Amount in revenue funding provided to schools to make sure that every infant across the country sits down to a healthy meal during the day.
1% – Percentage of packed lunches which meet food based standards, compared to 99% of school meals. University of Leeds, School Food Trust
23% – Percentage increase in the number of children eating vegetables at lunchtime in the free school meals pilot. The number consuming crisps and soft drinks reduced by 18%.



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Free School Meals Infographic

Free School Meals Template Editorial

Free School Meals Localised Figures

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