Meg T on 22 July 2021
Q. Do you get free school meals and what difference do they make?

When we were last in receipt of free schools in Year 9, the daily allowance was £2.30 per day. It was a cashless system, so no stigma as such compared to my day when children in receipt of free school meals had to hand over a paper token. I was grateful for the help, obviously. But £2.30 for lunch doesn't go far when you have a hungry, growing teenage boy. The food he had access to was either not to his taste (he has issues with textures), nor was it to his liking (healthy eating-phobic, despite my best efforts). What was available was often poor quality and limited so he would always come home hungry. Access to water was available via water drinking fountains, but according to my son, these were often out of order and not very hygienic. So any drinks, including bottled water had to be bought, despite my pleas for him to take his own drinks bottle with him, which cut into the food budget. Breakfast was always on offer before leaving for school, but often declined. Often he would use his allowance at morning break, because he was hungry, so missed lunch as he had already spent up, compounding the situation. Also any money not spent on one day, instead of remaining in his account would be swept away into the great ether somewhere and the balance reset at £2.30 the next day, so he was constantly having to price up what he could and couldn't afford, making his reliance on free school meals obvious in a more subtle but still embarrassing way.

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