Our latest comprehensive review of school meal provision across England shows 84% of parents opt for their child to have school meals at least once a week and 59% choose school meals every day.
The data comes from the 2023 England School Meals Report, which schools and caterers can download to help them increase the uptake of school meals.
So, what does the report say parents value most about school meal provision?
What parents want
More than half (56%) of parents said they would be willing and able to pay for breakfast if their child’s school provided it.
Of those parents whose children had school meals, 54% said food was chosen from the canteen on the day. However, the majority of parents said they would like to be able to pre-order school meals, view menus and nutritional content in advance and see a picture of the food available.
Here is some of the key data from the report, which we produced in partnership with Cypad, BlueRunner and LACA:
- Only 45% of secondary school parents said they had the option to pre-order meals, despite 67% wanting to be able to do so.
- 88% of parents in England who are entitled to free school meals (FSM) use them, a four percentage point rise on the figures for 2022.
- 93% said free school meals improved the quality of life for them or their children and 62% suggested they would continue to choose them if their child was no longer eligible for FSM.
- The reasons parents gave for choosing school meals every day included to give their child a hot meal (55%), for convenience (41%), and the opportunities to introduce their children to new foods (25%).
Boost school meal uptake
Almost half of parents (45%) whose children had home-packed lunches every day said they would opt for school meals more often if there was more choice.
This suggests that, in many cases, parents may be unfamiliar with the diversity of food options already on the menu in their child’s school. Promotional activities to raise awareness of the range of choice on offer could be one way to help schools and caterers boost meal uptake.
The full report can be downloaded here.