Free school meals UK: Over 6,000 children missing out in Hertfordshire - how to check if you’re eligible
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Campaigners have called for universal school meals for all children after figures revealed that over a fifth of eligible students in Hertfordshire are not taking up their free food.
According to the Department of Education, there were 6,143 children not taking free school meals which they are entitled to in Hertfordshire - 22.7% of eligible students in Year 3 and above missing out every day.
A total of 20,864 children received free school meals out of the 27,007 pupils who were eligible in the county last year.
These figures do not account for children who were absent on the census day or those who did not need a meal.
Sara Ogilvie, policy director at the Child Poverty Action Group, called on the Government to introduce universal free school meals.
She told our sister publication National World: “While it’s difficult to be precise about how many eligible children are not taking their free school meals, we do know that families and children still feel stigmatised – which is another reason to move towards free meals for all school kids.”
Sara said: “Around 800,000 children below the poverty line are not even eligible because the criteria is so restrictive and with so many families unable to pay bills right now, it’s clear that eligibility must be expanded so that every child can get a free, nutritious meal in school.
“No child should be going hungry in school because there isn’t much money at home.”
At its annual party conference last week (September 27), Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson did not commit to universal free school meals but did say that Labour would provide free breakfast clubs at every primary school in England.
Children in state reception and Years 1 and 2 are entitled to free school meals regardless of their household income.
Parents or carers who receive benefits, like Universal Credit, and have a household income under £7,400 a year can claim free school meals for older children.
Find out if you are eligible to put in a claim by visiting the UK Government website here.
Visit the Hertfordshire County Council website here to apply.