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Free school meals

Am I eligible for free school meals?

Parents of primary school children in Tower Hamlets would ordinarily receive school meals at no charge through a combination of the government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals for reception, Year 1 and Year 2, and locally funded free school meals for Years 3, 4, 5 and 6.

These meals are still available to children who are currently attending primary school.

Although these meals are free, they are not the same as Free School Meals. To receive Free School meals you must meet strict eligibility criteria.

To learn more about the support available to you, including your eligibility for Free School Meals, contact our Family Information Service on 020 7364 6495, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

I have no recourse to public funds, can I claim free school meals?

The government has temporarily extended free school meals eligibility to include:

  • Children of Zambrano carers
  • Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the United Kingdom on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Children of families recieving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction

These groups are also subject to a maximum household earnings threshold of £7,400 per annum.

The temporary extension includes children of a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This group is not subject to a maximum household earnings threshold.

Please contact your school to find out more.

What is my child's school offering?

Individual schools hold their own budget for free school meals, and therefore have responsibility for providing meals to eligible children and make their own choices about how this is delivered. This includes whether or not they have adopted the new government voucher scheme. The quickest route to knowing what provision you can expect from your school is to contact them directly (contact details can usually be found on their website) or keep reading for more information.

  • If you need help with food please contact us
  • If you would like to learn more about volunteering, you can do so here.

On this page:

 Warning: free school meals email scam


The Department for Education shared on Twitter on Tuesday 24 March that some parents have received an email stating:

‘As schools will be closing, if you're entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we'll make sure you're supported’.

This is a scam email - do not respond, and delete immediately.

Provision of free school meals at schools for vulnerable children and children of key workers

Where the council is the provider of a school’s catering it intends to continue to provide meals, in schools that remain open and where they attend, to vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Voucher scheme for free school meals

As announced by the Department for Education on Tuesday 31 March, children eligible for free school meals will benefit from a national voucher scheme allowing them to continue to access meals whilst they stay at home, including over the Easter holiday.

Schools can now provide every eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus.

Your school will provide you with a voucher that can be redeemed at the following. 

  • Aldi
  • Asda
  • M&S
  • McColl's (including RS McColl's and Martin's)
  • Morrisons
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Tesco
  • Waitrose

Redeeming the vouchers

Once you have received your voucher, you will be able to redeem them in store at the selected retailer by either:

  • presenting the voucher on a smartphone or tablet
  • presenting a paper copy of the voucher

You are free to select the most appropriate food and drink for your child. When selecting products, we encourage families to consider health and nutrition. The School Food Standards may act as a useful guide.

The vouchers should not be redeemed for any age-restricted items, such as alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets.

There are a number of online resources available to support families in preparing healthy and nutritious food, including on the NHS Eat Well website.

To understand if you're eligible for free school meals, or to apply for free school meals, visit the department for education website.

If you need urgent support

If you are in urgent need of support, fill on our self-referral form or call 020 7364 3030 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm; Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday, 10am to 4pm).

Weekly food bag for benefits eligible pupils

Tower Hamlets contract catering services will provide a weekly food bag to eligible parents, carers or guardians to collect from participating schools

Families with more than one free school meals eligible child will get one food bag per child.

Each food bag will contain the following items:

(Please bring your own bag for collection)

  • 1x loaf of brown or white bread
  • 1x tin of sweetcorn
  • 1x tin of baked beans or tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce
  • 6x eggs
  • 1x 500g penne pasta
  • 1x box of cheese triangles (eg Dairylea or similar)
  • 1x cucumber
  • 1x pack of cherry tomatoes
  • 5x fruit (eg a pack of apples, pears, satsumas or bananas)
  • 5x long-life fruit yoghurts

Please note:

  • Food may be subject to change depending on seasonal and supply chain availability.
  • Where there are food allergies, a food voucher may be offered instead.
  • Any leftover food may be frozen or donated to a local food bank.

The council does not manage the budget for free school meals - this is the responsibility of individual schools.

We will share details of the government's proposed national voucher scheme as information becomes available.

Participating schools in the weekly food bag service

Updated Monday 4 May. Participating schools are as follows:

Eligible parents, carers or guardians will be invited to participating schools.

 Alice Model Nursery
 Blue Gates Field - Infant
 Blue Gates Field - Junior
 Cheery Trees Special
 Children's House Nursery School
 Columbia Primary School
 Columbia Market Nursery School
 Elizabeth Selby
 Guardian Angels Catholic Primary
 St Agnes
 St Anne's Catholic Primary School
 Woolmore Primary School


Recipe ideas from Jamie Oliver for £15 vouchers

The food education team at Jamie Oliver have produced a shopping list and meal ideas for families claiming the £15 food voucher. 

Learn more and be inspired (new recipes added all the time).