Nutrition and school lunches
Your child may qualify for free school meals or milk, or be given free fruit and vegetables at school. Local authorities must provide free lunches for eligible pupils, paid-for meals where requested and good facilities and supervision so pupils can eat safely.
All food provided by local authorities must meet national nutritional standards. National nutritional standards ensure that children are provided with a healthy, balanced diet comprising the right quantities of the following:
- fruit and vegetables
- bread, other cereals and potatoes
- meat, fish and alternatives
- milk and dairy foods
- foods containing fat and foods containing sugar
These standards have recently been reviewed by the independent School Meals Review Panel. The panel's report, 'Turning the Tables: Transforming School Food Minimum Standards for School Meals', recommends redesigning school menus to set new minimum standards for food in schools and ensuring pupils get essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
If the school's budget share includes an amount for lunches and refreshments, it is the governors' responsibility to provide free and paid-for meals facilities, and to meet the nutritional standards.
Further information on nutritional standards in schools is available from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).
To help you pack a healthy balanced lunch for your child, the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) has drawn up a list of tips and suggestions.
Local authorities are not obliged to provide milk to pupils, but if they choose to do so, it must be free to those pupils who qualify for free lunches. Where schools choose to provide milk for pupils, the duty to provide free milk to eligible pupils is transferred to the governing bodies of former grant-maintained schools and grant-maintained special schools.
European Union subsidy rules allow local authorities and schools to offer nursery and primary school pupils a maximum of 250ml of subsidised milk a day. Under the Welfare Food Scheme, run by the Department of Health, under fives are eligible for free school milk. For more information, see the Nursery milk guide for providers of day care for children under five.