The School Lunches Take-up Survey 2013/14 was commissioned by the Department for Education to inform on-going policy development around school lunches.

The School Lunches Take-up Survey 2013/14

The School Lunches Take-up Survey 2013/14 was commissioned by the Department for Education to inform on-going policy development around school lunches. This research was commissioned following the publication of the School Food Plan, an independent review of school food published by the Department for Education (DfE) in July 2013. The objectives were to:-

  • measure take-up of school lunches
  • understand variations in take-up by different school characteristics
  • identify key drivers of school lunch take-up
  • establish the average price of a school lunch

Due to the low response rate and level of missing data on take-up from secondary schools, the summary analysis below is only reported for primary and special schools combined.

  •  While nearly all schools offered a hot meal in the 2013/14 academic year (97%), the average take-up of school lunches was 42.6 per cent.
  • The average take-up rate was 35.5 per cent for paid lunches and 75.1 per cent for free school meals.
  • The price of a lunchtime meal ranged from £1.00 to £3.00 with a mean of £2.04. For every increase in average price by £1, take-up of school meals fell by 18.5 percentage points.
  • Lunchtime meals were most expensive in the South West (£2.17) and London (£2.04) and cheapest in Yorkshire and the Humber (£1.90) and the North East (£1.95)
  • There were variations by model of provision. Schools with in-house provision had the highest take-up (48.0%) compared with schools who provided meals through a local authority contract, or directly through a contract with a private catering company (42.1% and 41.0% respectively).
  • The majority of schools reported that lunches were prepared on-site (76%). Just over a fifth of schools prepared lunches off-site (21%) while four per cent had a combination of on- and off-site preparation.
  • Only 18 per cent of schools operated a cashless payment system, which recorded transactions by individual pupils.
  • Among schools that perceived a positive change, the main reasons cited were the quality of food, menu changes/meal options (including more choice) and promoting school meals to parents and pupils.
  • A high proportion of primary schools expected take-up to increase in the next year (86%). This is unsurprising given the introduction of the universal infant free school meal policy (UIFSM) in September 2014.

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