Cost key factor, say school meals campaigners as “draconian” regulations blamed for drop in take up

May 17, 2010

Responding to concerns that pupils are rejecting healthier school meals due to “draconian” regulations, campaigners today pointed to cost, and the current means testing of free school meals, as a key barrier to take up of healthy school meals. They point to official research showing price is a key factor in choosing not to eat a school lunch for up to a third of pupils.

John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland and a leading member of the Scottish Free School Meals Campaign, said;

“When the Scottish Government piloted universal free healthy school lunches take up jumped from 53% to 75%. Even amongst children already entitled to free school meals take-up rose. It is clear that if local authorities and Ministers are serious about boosting the take up of healthy school lunches then providing them free to all pupils is by far the most effective action they can take.”

Marion Davis, Policy Manager of One Parent Families Scotland, also members of the Free School Meals Campaign, added;

“Free healthy school meals can play an important role in tackling health inequalities, improving readiness to learn and in tackling poverty by freeing up much needed resources in hard pressed family budgets."

Notes for editors
  • According to Scottish Government research cost is a key factor in choosing not to eat a school meal for 21% of primary and 31% of secondary school pupils[i]. (see www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/01/13110440/3 figure 3.8 )
  • Evaluation of the Scottish pilot free school meal programme for P1 to P3 pupils (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/236867/0064986.pdf )shows that universal provision massively boosts take up of healthy school meals as well as relieving pressure on family budgets:
    • take up of free school meals increased from 53% to 75%
    • amongst children already entitled to free school meals take-up also rose (by up to 8.5 percentage points)
    • “..the trial…impacted positively on the home environment of pupils,” and, “.. the simple benefit of increasing disposable income was particularly evident amongst parents with more than one child.”

For further information please contact:

John Dickie, Head of CPAG in Scotland, on 0141 552 3656 or 07795 340 61802