Free School Meals All Year Round Piloted by Scottish Council

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 8 min read

Free school meals make a huge difference to students and families lives during the school year – many simply rely on them. When the provision is not there in school holidays, deprived families can really struggle. That’s why one council in Scotland is piloting an all-year approach to free school food – throughout the holidays and even on weekends during term time.

Lanarkshire council free school meals programme

Westminster didn’t support a draft bill put forward at the end of last year by the ‘all-party parliamentary group on holiday hunger’, so the Scottish council has taken it into their own hands to trial a scheme that fills the holiday hunger gap.

The trial will take place over the coming spring holiday and, if a success, extend into the summer and cater for more schools in the council’s remit. Frank McNally of the North Lanarkshire council said:

“This goes beyond ‘holiday hunger’ to cover the weekend period too, because what teaching staff were picking up is that some children were leaving school on a Friday and not having another substantial meal until they came back to school on the Monday.

“Both research and our own anecdotal evidence shows that children regularly skipping meals has a massive impact on behaviour, concentration and cognitive development.

Avoiding free school meals stigma

North Lanarkshire has a high concentration of deprivation, so the policy could make a real difference to families. One NUT study found that a third of parents with incomes under £25,000 were liable to skip meals in summer months in order to feed their kids, and for families with an income below £15,000, it rose to half of parents.

The same study reported that three-quarters of teachers believe weekend and holiday hunger was negatively affecting children’s education.

Clearly there is a good case for supplying free school meals all-year round, but John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group, highlighted the importance of avoiding stigmatisation in such a policy’s implementation. He said:

“In general terms we would welcome extension of free school meals but also stress that it’s really important that healthy free holiday lunches are offered as part of a wider package of holiday activities.

“Every effort should be made to avoid the risk of stigmatising holiday provision, for example by making sure it is open to those who pay for school lunches too and isn’t promoted purely as a feeding programme.”

How FasTrak avoids free school meals stigmatisation

In an ideal world, the stigma that some parents and students suffer from receiving free school food wouldn’t exist. To combat it though, here at FasTrak, we give students and their parents back control of their privacy with our Cashless Catering solution. Students receiving a free school meal collect their meal in exactly the same way as students whose meal has been pre-paid for by their parents. That way, students on free school meals are not singled out in the catering process.

We can help achieve a stigma free process for free school meals, and if the Lanarkshire council can achieve similar for its out-of-school-hours meals, it would go a long way to making the programme a success.

Related links & news stories

The Guardian: Council plans free school meals all year to tackle ‘holiday hunger’