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Overview

The UK government funds free school meals for children in England who are attending a state school, free school or academy. This includes funding for meals or food parcels for children who are required to self-isolate or stay at home due to Covid-19. 

The child’s school year and local arrangements will determine whether free school meals are provided universally or are only available to eligible children.

Free school meals are not classed as a public fund for immigration purposes and can be accessed by a child regardless of their immigration status. However, when free school meals are not provided universally, a child will need to meet eligibility criteria based on their parent’s immigration status or benefit entitlement. This means that not all children in low-income households will qualify.

The rules that apply are set out on the following pages according to the child’s school year. This information applies to schemes in England unless stated otherwise.

See also the government guidance about providing free school meals during the Covid-19 outbreak

Information about free school meals in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is provided by the respective governments: