Nutrition and school lunches

Your child could get free lunches or milk at school. Schools must provide free lunches for eligible pupils, paid-for meals where requested and good facilities and supervision so pupils can eat safely.

Free school lunches

You don't have to pay for your child's school lunch if: 

  • you receive Universal Credit and your net earnings aren't over £14,000 a year
  • you receive Income Support
  • you receive income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • you receive income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • you get support under the Immigration and Asylum Act                                        
  • you get Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit with an annual taxable income of £16,190 or less
  • you get Working Tax Credit “run-on” – the payment someone may receive for four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • you receive the Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • your child has a statement of special educational needs and is designated to need a special diet, or they board at a special school

Children who receive Universal Credit with net earnings not exceeding £14,000 a year, Income Support, income-based Job Seeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance in their own right qualify as well. All pupils who do not qualify for free school lunches must be charged the same amount, for the same quantity, of the same item.

Apply for free school lunches

To get more information about applying for free school lunches, go to:

School lunches and other food

As your children spend much of their time in school, they need nutritious food for long-term good health. This includes food that is available in the canteen, vending machines and tuck shops. A healthy, balanced diet also helps your child learn in the classroom and leads to improved educational outcomes.

To read more about nutrition standards in school meals, go to:

Packed lunches

If your child takes a packed lunch from home, they need healthy food and snacks. To read tips on what to put in their lunchbox, go to:


Free school milk is given all pupils at special schools, to those in other schools where it is necessary for their health and where a pupil does not have access to school meals. Pre-school pupils are also eligible for free milk. Subsidised milk is available to nursery, primary and post-primary pupils.

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