One in five (22%) parents on a low income are not checking to see if they are entitled to free school meals worth £1,140 a year, according to the School Food Trust.
The online research by Pollab Limited surveyed 517 UK adults with a household income of less than £16,040 and at least one school-aged child aged 6 -17 years old, and found that some parents fail to check if they are entitled, and instead give their children money to buy lunch.
When asked what would encourage parents to take up the offer of a free school lunch, 38% of parents believed better promotion was the answer. The same percentage also thought parents would be more likely to sign up if more children were entitled, highlighting that parents did not want their children to feel singled out.
Judy Hargadon, chief executive, School Food Trust, said: "The recent school census showed that the number of children registered for free school meals rose by 21,410 this year - the first annual increase in three years.
"We are working with schools and Local Authorities to promote free school meals and make sure parents have all the information they need. As the recession bites and unemployment rises, cash strapped families need to be making all the savings they can; we would urge any parent to check with their school or local council and start claiming what's theirs."
The School Food Trust estimated in a study last year that 24% of children who are entitled to free school meals (334,000) are not registered to take them.
Children are highly likely to be entitled to receive free school meals if their household income (including benefits) does not exceed £16,040 and they do not get Working Families Tax Credit. Parents can apply online via their council or pick up a form at their school. For more information, visit the School Food Trust website.
The School Food Trust has created an information sheet for parents:
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