School students campaign for better school meals in Parliament

FSM Allowance event

A Better Deal for Free School Meals

We staged an event in Parliament where secondary school students presented findings from a unique project about Free School Meals involving their own research.

Forty-two youngsters, aged between 13 and 16, launched a report detailing their experiences of the school food environment to a room full of MPs, Peers, civil servants from the Department for Education, campaigners, academics, and civil society organisations.

The students, from seven schools across Yorkshire, had set out to investigate whether the Free School Meals allowance enables them to access, healthy and sustainable food.

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It led to the publication of the A Better Deal for Free School Meals report, which the students researched and wrote in collaboration with school staff and supported by The Food Foundation and University of York.

A number of students wrote poems highlighting their experiences to accompany the report and shared these with the audience during the event, which we have published as a booklet.

Why is this research important?

Every school day more than 100,000 school cooks and caterers serve school meals to millions of children.

With pupils spending 190 days of the year in school, the food produced by educational institutions plays a critical role in providing children with the nourishment they need to grow, learn and thrive.

There is also strong evidence to show that when done well school meals can significantly improve health and educational outcomes, particularly for those eligible for Free School Meals. 

Watch our picture gallery 👇

Key findings

  • The current allowance is insufficient for students to be able to choose the healthiest and most sustainable food.
  • Students receiving Free School Meals are unable to afford snacks or a drink at breaktime as well as lunch.
  • Not having the same choices as their peers can make students feel excluded and stigmatised.
Better Deal for FSM report graphic

Thank you to all the students and schools who took part in the research.

Participating schools included: Dixons Allerton Academy, Bradford, Netherhall Learning Campus, Huddersfield, Halifax Academy, West Yorkshire, Bedale High School, North Yorkshire, Lawnswood School, Leeds, One In A Million Free School, Bradford, Sir Thomas Wharton School, Doncaster.

With thanks to our partners

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