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Free school meals

What are benefits-eligible free school meals?

  • Benefits-eligible free school meals are given to children in both primary and secondary schools across the country, including Tower Hamlets, whose household receives means tested benefits and/or other entitlements; read more on entitledto.co.uk and gov.uk.
  • Benefits-eligible free school meals is NOT the same as Universal Infant Free School Meals, which provides a government funded meal for every student in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.
  • In Tower Hamlets too, this is complimented by local authority funded meals for those in Years 3, 4, 5 and 6.
  • In secondary schools, only benefits-eligible free school meals are provided for free.

Individual schools are responsible for the provision of benefits-eligible free school meals (FSM).

The council are helping some schools with the provision of a food voucher. If you think you may be eligible for free school meals and are not receiving anything - contact your child's school directly.

Anyone who wishes to make a new application for benefits-eligible free school meals can find information here.

Arrangements will vary by school, and meal options will not necessarily be a cooked meal. In Contract Services schools (where a school pays the council to provide its catering) we are serving freshly cooked hot meals. 

Free school meals during COVID-19?

During 'normal times' benefits-eligible free school meals were provided at school and only during term time.

At present, benefits-eligible free school meals are being provided in different ways (typically a voucher) and during the school holidays too (Christmas 2020 and February 2021).

Vouchers are only available to benefits-eligible FSM children who are at home and learning remotely.

If you are receiving vouchers, the Department for Education has a step-by-step guide: How to use your free school meals vouchers. See also Free school meals Voucher scheme parent/carer FAQ.

Making meals on a budget

There are several online resources to support feeding your family on a budget, including some tailored specifically to free school meals vouchers. Here, we've collected a handful of healthy links for you:

What other support is available?

The council's resident support scheme is available to any person, or household, in urgent need of crisis support.

Take a look at what other help is available or visit the Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network for free information, advice and support thcan.org.uk