Free school meals
If your child is under 19 and in full-time education, and you receive certain benefits, you may be able to get free school meals for them.
Your eligibility will be checked and your application processed straight away. If your application is successful the school will be notified and your child should start receiving their free school meal within 24 hours. We may ask for proof of benefit after you apply.
If you apply and are eligible, even if your circumstances change, you will remain eligible for benefits-related free school meals until your child finishes their current phase of education (either Year 6 if they are in primary school or Year 11 if they are in secondary school).
This will continue to be the case until the end of March 2025.
Benefits of receiving free school meals
In Kent, 21% of children receive free school meals. If you are eligible and register your child will get:
- a choice of delicious, healthy hot meals every school day at no cost - this is worth £470 a year per child and recognised to improve behaviour and learning
- meals to cater for cultural, dietary, and religious requirements
- the chance to develop social skills by sitting with friends for a school meal
- a £10 food voucher per eligible child each week during the school holidays.
The school will receive additional funding to cover the catering cost and school funding grants, such as the Pupil Premium, based on their take up of free school meals.
Some schools and academies also offer reduced rates for school trips, clubs, after school care, holiday activities and uniform to children registered for free school meals.
School holiday arrangements
We're working with schools to make sure that families who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals will receive vouchers to feed their children during school holidays.
You'll get a £10 voucher per eligible child, which can be spent in supermarkets and local shops.
If your child gets free school meals because they are in year 2 or below, you will still need to apply for benefits-related free school meals to get vouchers during the October break.
Contact your child's school if you are unsure what arrangements are being put in place for your family.
Free summer bus travel
The new 'Bus About Kent' pass is available to families who receive benefits-related free school meals and allows up to 4 family members to travel by bus for free from 23 July to 31 August 2023 inclusive.
Universal free school meals
If your child is in year R, year 1 or year 2 they are entitled to universal free school meals - all children in these year groups can get a free meal at school each day.
If you receive certain benefits, your child's school can also get some additional money to support your child's learning. We encourage you to check your eligibility and apply online as your child's school can benefit from the additional funding if you apply for the free school meals.
Child's school name does not appear
If your child's school name does not appear, it is because they do not use our Free School Meals service. You should contact the school directly to find out their process.
'Not eligible' application result
If your application is 'not eligible', you could still fit the criteria.
Check your application again to make sure you have correctly entered your:
- national insurance number
- child's date of birth
If you are new to receiving a benefit, our system might not have your current circumstances so we will need to investigate your application further.
If you think you should be eligible email firstname.lastname@example.org with:
- your child's date of birth
- application reference number
- any evidence of your benefits.
Younger siblings are not eligible
If your eldest child receives free school meals and your youngest child does not, this is due to your eligibility at the time of the new application based on your current circumstances.
Your younger child does not get free school meals just because an older sibling does. If your circumstances change so you become eligible, then please apply again.
Children who currently get free school meals will continue to receive these until March 2025, even if they are no longer eligible. This will extend to the end of their primary school education if they are in primary school, or their secondary school education if they are in secondary school. For example, if they are in year 5 in March 2025 they will continue to get free school meals until the end of year 6, even if your circumstances change.
Any new child found to be eligible until March 2025 will get the benefit protections.
Support to complete your application
If you need help to complete the form contact:
If your personal details have changed you need to let your child's school know.
If your financial situation changes your child will continue to receive free school meals as they are covered under transitional protection. You do not need to do anything.
Since 1 April 2018, transitional protections were put in place for children who might otherwise have lost free school meals following the update to eligibility criteria.
Transitional protections support any pupil who:
- is in receipt of free school meals before 1 April 2018. They will continue to receive free school meals during the Universal Credit rollout period. This applies even if they no longer meet the eligibility criteria during that time.
- becomes eligible for free school meals after 1 April 2018. They will continue to receive free school meals during the Universal Credit rollout period. This applies even if they no longer meet the eligibility criteria during the rollout period.
If don't want your child to receive free school meals any longer, please email email@example.com.
Moving from primary to secondary
You do not need to re-apply when your child is moving from primary to secondary school. Your child’s previous school should send confirmation to the new school to tell them your child is already receiving free school meals.
Moving home in the summer holidays
If you move home before the summer holidays make sure you inform your school.
Moving into Kent
If your child already receives free school meals before moving into Kent, you do not need to apply. Your child’s previous school will send confirmation to the new school to tell them your child is already receiving free school meals.
Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF)
The HAF Programme offers families of children aged 4 to 16, who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals, opportunities to access a range of free activities in the Easter, summer, and Christmas holidays.
Each programme will provide a range of exciting activities, games and new experiences for children, along with a healthy main meal.
To book a HAF programme visit The Education People website.