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Online Free School Meals: a revolution in public service delivery


In England around 1.4 million children are entitled to free school meals. However, over 300,000 pupils don’t get the meals to which they are entitled* - with one of the factors being that parents were put off by a long and slow application process.

Free school meals play an important role in tackling disadvantage and child poverty**. School meals are the only hot meal received by one in four children – click for more information. Free school meals play an important role in allowing children to concentrate better in lessons. They also form part of a child’s social education, and alleviate some of the financial difficulties experienced by parents on low incomes***. 

In the past, the application process for free school meals was an antiquated, difficult and slow, paper-based process. The Online Free School Meals project is a cross-government project streamlining delivery across four central government departments and 174 local authorities in England and Wales. By creating an electronic application process Online Free School Meals makes it simpler and faster for over 1 million children to receive these important meals, whilst delivering significant efficiencies for local authorities and other government departments.

© Herfordshire Councy Council 2012

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*Harper, C., & Wood, L., (2009) – ‘Please Sir? Can we have some more? – lessons from Free School Meal initiatives’, School Food Trust. 

**House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee – ‘Child Poverty in the UK’ Second report of Session 2003-04, Volume I (

*** Harper, C., & Wood, L., (2009) op cit.

About this case study
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Amanda Derrick

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(00 44) (0) 1992 588511

Amanda Derrick and Lorna Peters of Hertfordshire County Council wrote this case study for Governance International on 21 March 2012.

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