Interventions to increase free school meal take-up

Jenny Woodward, Pinki Sahota, Jo Pike, Rosie Molinari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to design and implement interventions to increase free school meal (FSM) uptake in pilot schools. This paper describes the interventions, reports on acceptability (as perceived by school working parties) and explores the process of implementing change. Design/methodology/approach – The research consisted of two phases, an exploratory phase followed by an intervention phase. Findings from the latter are presented. Ten pilot schools (five primary and five secondary) in Leeds, England were recruited. Each established a working party, examined current claiming processes and implemented individualised action plans. This paper draws on the final action plans and interviews/focus groups with working parties. Findings – Interventions to improve FSM claiming process, minimise discrimination and maximise awareness were designed. The majority were implemented successfully, the exception being amending anti-bullying policies. Creative ways of delivering interventions were demonstrated. The process of change was effective, critical factors being having individualised action plans that allowed flexibility in implementation, reflecting on current claiming processes, and setting up working parties. Practical implications – Ways of working with schools to increase FSM uptake and more generally improve nutritional policies are suggested. Amending claiming systems in schools is recommended as is greater pupil and parent involvement in nutrition policies. Originality/value – An estimated 300,000 UK children do not take FSMs they are entitled to – with many schools unaware of the issue. This study worked with schools to discover how to address this issue and evaluated the perceived acceptability and feasibility of the approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-213
Number of pages17
JournalHealth Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


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