Parents reveal what they think about school meal provision across Scotland

14 Mar 2024

Our latest edition of Scotland School Meals Report has shown that 53% of children have school meals every day – which results in a 3 percent point increase from the 2022 survey.

The 2023 comprehensive review of school meal provision across Scotland includes data and recommendations that schools and caterers can use to understand how to improve school meal services across Scotland.

Discover more about what parents think about school meal services and gain valuable insights about the school meals landscape of Scotland.

The School Meals Debate: Exploring Parents’ Opinions

While there are various methods for selecting school meals, many pupils choose from the canteen or order online in class. 59% of parents who stated they wanted their child to choose school meals in a different way preferred that the new method be online.

When school meals are not pre-ordered, the majority of pupils do not receive their preferred school lunch, with only a quarter reporting that they do. This highlights how digital meal pre-ordering allows school caterers to offer the school meals that pupils want while also educating parents about what their child ate at school.

Christopher Ross at ASSIST FM talked about our continuing collaboration in producing this report, “As in previous years, ASSIST FM are pleased to work with ParentPay on this report. The data obtained through the parental survey helps caterers across the country to ensure they deliver the best outcomes for children and young people across Scotland.”

Here are some major findings from the 2023 report, which we collaborated on alongside Cypad, BlueRunner, and ASSIST FM:

  • 78% of parents who can pre-order their child’s school meals say their child usually gets the meal they want. This represents a significant increase from 60% in the 2022 report.
  • The majority of primary and secondary school parents want to use a school lunch pre-ordering system. 37% of primary parents already use and prefer such a system, indicating that food pre-ordering software is a worthwhile investment for schools at both levels.
  • Of those eligible for free school meals, two thirds (67%) would take up school meal provision even if they didn’t qualify for FSM. This represents an increase of 7% from our 2022 report.
  • Nearly one-fifth of parents said that sustainability and ethical sourcing are definitely factors in meal selection, and nearly one-third said it had some influence.

Increasing school meal uptake

While the top three factors for improving school meal provision for both home-packed lunch users and school meal users remain the same – a greater number of meal options, better quality meals/more appetising meals, and lower cost.

The biggest difference can be seen when it comes to the quality of school meals, with 66% of parents who solely give home-packed lunches indicating that it would be a factor in increasing meal uptake.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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