There are still a number of barriers that put children and families off applying for and taking up free school meals. Georgina Burt advises on how schools can remove some of these barriers

The pandemic has placed a spotlight on free school meal (FSM) provision in schools, as many of you will be painfully aware.

The debates about whether or not lunches should be provided only during term-time or extended to school holidays, uproar about the quality of packed lunches provided during school closures, and footballer Marcus Rashford’s on-going campaign have all ensured that child poverty remains high on the agenda.

FSMs are a crucial form of support for children and families experiencing poverty and research suggests that the number of children eligible is continuing to increase (SecEd, 2020).

At the same time, a recent report from Child Poverty Action Group, the North East Child Poverty Commission, and Children North East (2021) warns that across the North East, only 89 per cent of eligible pupils are registered for FSMs (103,000 against 116,000 who are eligible).

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