Free school meals

Free school meal vouchers during Easter school holidays

We are paying for meal vouchers during the Easter school holidays. The vouchers are for children and young people aged 5 to 19 who are registered for free meals with their school or college.

Vouchers will be sent to parents before the start of the holiday. You can use the vouchers to buy food only. You can use them in most supermarkets.

For more information, visit the School Vouchers website.

Free school meals assistance during school closures

Parents and carers of eligible children will need to contact their child’s school in the first instance to discuss how they can access Free School Meals assistance during the current national lockdown and school closures.

If you need to confirm your child’s eligibility for Free School Meals, please read the following information.


Children in reception, year 1 and year 2 automatically get free school meals. This is called Universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) and you do not need to apply for it.

If you are a low income family and your child will be using free school meals, you can support your school by letting them know you are using the service. Your school will then be eligible to apply for more funding to support the provision of education for children in the school.

Read the list of bullet points under 'Children in year 3' to determine whether you are a low income family.

Children in year 3 and above

Your child may be eligible for free school meals if you are receiving any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit (not Working Tax Credit), with an annual income below £16,190
  • Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance, income related
  • Support under part 6 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 a household income of £7,400 or less (after tax and not including any benefits you get)

In accordance with national Department for Education advice, we cannot accept evidence of provisional tax awards.


Your application will be refused if you're not receiving any of the listed benefits. Please consider this before applying.

If you have previously applied, and your child has been awarded Free School Meals, you do not need to re-apply unless there is a change in your circumstances, such as change of address or school.

You can apply for free school meals online.

Your application will be processed within 15 working days, but it can take longer if you apply in August or September.

We will contact you and the school if your child is entitled.

Change of circumstances

If your child changes school or address, you will need to reapply for free school meals.

Related content

Pupil Premium

Pupil Premium is extra funding schools can claim for children from low income families. GOV.UK has more information about the funding, including how schools should spend it.

Healthy eating in schools

Our School Meals Service provide meals to over 300 schools in Essex. They work with schools to ensure children get served healthy, nutritious and balanced meals.

GOV.UK has more about the standards for school food.

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