About this study
This study evaluated the impact of providing school children with free school meals over a two year period in three local authorities. We examined how the Free School Meals (FSM) pilot affected take-up of school meals, eating habits, health, behaviour and attainment.
- Offering free school meals to all primary school children appeared to improve attainment
- Free school meals for all primary pupils increased take-up of school lunches
- However, simply extending entitlement to a greater number of pupils had little impact on eating habits and attainment
Potential policy impact
The study will help inform policy makers about the effects of universally rolling out free school meals or increasing the number of students entitled to free meals, building on previous evidence of the benefits of school lunches.
In two local authorities all primary school children were offered free school meals. In the third area entitlement was extended to cover pupils in primary and secondary schools whose families were on low annual income. We collected data in the following ways:
-Data from the National Pupil Database
-Information on individual pupils' take-up of school meals
-Qualitative case studies
-A longitudinal face to face survey of pupils and parents
-Telephone interviews with school catering managers
Pupils in the pilot areas were compared to a carefully selected group of similar pupils in areas where the pilot was not taking place, to evaluate the impact of the pilot on take-up, eating habits, health, attainment and absence from school
Find out more
The pilots aim to find out whether free school meals reduce obesity, improve academic performance, and improve eating habits at home.