Free school meals are available to all key stage one pupils and to children whose parents receive certain benefits.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update

The government has issued guidance to schools regarding continuing provision of (benefit based) free school meals via meals, food packs or vouchers during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. It is the school where your child was receiving free school meals that will decide on the method of support.

The free school meal team are unable to offer any assistance or advice regarding the issuing of vouchers or the system schools have in place for providing meals. Any queries or complaints should be directed to the school.

During the coronavirus outbreak, there has been a temporarily extension from 21 April until schools fully reopen to free school meals eligibility to include four groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). Find out more information and apply.

From 1 April 2018 the Government introduced new regulations for people claiming free schools meals who receive Universal Credit. The change means that if your net annual earnings are more than £7,400 you will not be eligible to claim free school meals.

Pupils who received free school meals before 1 April 2018 and pupils who are assessed as eligible after 1 April 2018 will continue to receive free school meals until the end of the universal roll out period, which is expected to be March 2022. This applies even if they no longer meet the eligibility criteria at a subsequent point during the roll out period.

At the end of the Universal Credit roll out period, any existing pupil who no longer meets the eligibility criteria will continue to receive free school meals until the end of their current phase of education, i.e. primary or secondary school.

Qualifying for free school meals

To qualify for free school meals you must fulfil one of the following criteria:

  • Universal Credit, provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400, as assessed by earnings from up to three of your most recent assessment periods (£616.67 per month);
  • Income Support;
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance;
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance;
  • Support under part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999;
  • The guarantee element of Pension Credit;
  • Child Tax Credit, provided you are also not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual household gross income that does not exceed £16,190 (as assessed by HMRC); or
  • Working Tax Credit run-on, paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.

Please note that contributions-based benefits, including contribution-related Jobseekers' Allowance do not entitle you to claim free school meals.

Apply for free school meals

If you meet the criteria, apply by using the  application form (docx / 147 KB).

Applications are usually processed within five working days. You will be notified in writing, either by post or email, if your child is entitled and we will also let the school know. You should continue to pay until confirmation comes through. Schools may be able to arrange reimbursement of payment made while your entitlement is being confirmed.

Free school meals claims cannot be backdated. They are awarded from the date we receive the application, once eligibility is confirmed. This is because there is a legal requirement for a request to be made, before a free school meal can be provided.

If you are not entitled to free school meals, you will be notified in writing.

Universal free school meals for infants

If your child is in reception, year one or year two they are automatically entitled to a free school meal. Parents who are on benefits and meet the above criteria are still encouraged to  apply for additional funding (pdf / 337 KB), known as pupil premium funding. This benefits the school and helps increase your child's attainment. During the current roll out of Universal Credit if your child is approved for free school meals they will gain 'transitional protection' until at least March 2022.

Frequently asked questions

Nursery children are entitled to free meals if they meet all the following criteria:

  • Their parents receive one of the qualifying benefits for free school meals;
  • The child receives education before and after the lunch time period;
  • The child is in a maintained nursery provision; and
  • The parents, or another responsible adult, have made a claim for a free meal.

These criteria apply whether a child is attending funded or bought hours.

Post-16 students can receive free school meals.

If your child attends the sixth form in a North Yorkshire school, claims will normally be administered by the county council.

If your child attends a further education college you should apply for free school meals by contacting the college directly.

Although we would normally process application forms for all pupils attending local authority maintained schools, this is not always the case if a school becomes an academy.

Contact the welfare team on 01609 533405 for more information.

With effect from April 2013 the council is no longer allowed to retain funding to help smooth the cost of meals provision across schools.

One of the impacts of this change is that we can no longer set a standard price for the cost of a school meal in North Yorkshire schools. It is for each school to decide how much to charge parents for a school meal and therefore the value of a free school meal may vary from school to school.

You can see sample menus on our school meals page.