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Healthy living and school meals

1 April 2018

Studying hard and growing fast means children can often be hungry, so it’s very important they eat regular nutritious meals.  Snacks like chocolate and crisps not only fail to keep hunger away, they may also lead to unhealthy eating habits which can be difficult to undo.
If you a parent or a pupil who wants to know more about healthy eating or free school meals, you can find plenty of useful information on this page.


School meals and healthy eating

If you are worried about your child’s weight and what they eat, the first thing to do is check their Body Mass Index (BMI). The NHS site provides a BMI calculator which is easy to use. This calculator will tell you if, for their age, height and weight, your child is underweight, just right or overweight.
If your child is underweight, this could be because they are growing fast and using lots of energy. If they are seriously underweight and you suspect he or she might have an eating disorder, you need to seek professional advice from your doctor.
The NHS site provides lots of information on family health and exercise, along with activities for children to help teach them about good diet.
Essex Outdoors has information about local events, clubs and societies where you and your child can get fit, have fun and make new friends.
Making a change in your own and your family’s eating habits is not easy but help is available on the Change 4 Life website. 

Free school meals 


Should I apply?

You should only apply for Free School Meals if you receive one of these benefits:
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit (not Working Tax Credit), with an annual income of below £16,190
  • Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance, income related
  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act, 1999
  • Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit, with an income of £7,400 or less

Children who get any of the above benefits in their own right (i.e. they get benefits payments directly, instead of through a parent or guardian) can also get free school meals.

Please note that if you are not in receipt of one of the listed benefits, any application will be refused. 

Only if you receive one of the above benefits, should you complete the online application form.


Change of circumstances

If you are eligible for free school meals, and your circumstances change in any way (such as changing address or school, and registering another child) you will need to contact the Team via to advise the team of these changes.
Please note that from September 2014, all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are entitled to receive a free school meal, regardless of income, in line with the Government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals initiative. There is no need to make an application to the Local Authority for parents of these children.
Therefore you should only apply for free school meals in the August of the year that your child is entering Year 3, or if your child is Year 4 or older if you believe you meet the low income eligibility criteria.

School Pupil Premium Funding

Did you know that schools can receive significant additional funding for every child that resides in a low income household?
Schools may therefore contact you for details including your name, national insurance number or asylum seeker reference number and date of birth. We would encourage you to co-operate with schools and offer them your details where requested in order for Essex County Council to inform them whether they qualify for additional funding.
It is important to note that no other parents or pupils will know you have been assessed and it will not affect any other benefits you are claiming. This is purely for additional school funding to support children.


If you’re worried about your weight or get called names because of your size or body shape then now is the time to do something about it.
To start, you need to check your Body Mass Index (BMI). This will use four things to tell you if you are underweight, overweight or just right. You need your:
  • height
  • sex
  • weight
  • age  
This calculator will tell you your BMI, you can use it to find out how much weight you need to gain or lose to reach a healthy balance.
If your BMI says you are underweight but you think you are fat you might be suffering from an eating disorder. If you are, you need to try to regain some weight or you risk becoming seriously ill.  It will help you if you can talk to a friend or your parents about your feelings towards food. Your doctor can also help, or you could talk to Childline on 0800 1111.
If your BMI says you are overweight you need to cut down on the bad things you eat and increase the good things. You may also need to take more exercise. You can identify what food is good and what is bad on the Great Grub site. Once you know what you should be eating, encourage your parents to provide healthy meals and get the whole family eating well.