Free school meals

Schools, education and learning

Who can get free school meals?

Your child will be entitled to free school meals if they to go school in Waltham Forest, and you or your partner get one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit*
  • Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • The Guarantee Credit element of State Pension Credit
  • Support from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS)
  • Support from the Local Authority Social Services Asylum Team (SSAT)
  • Child Tax Credit, provided that you are not entitled to Working Tax Credit (but see below), and your annual income (as assessed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) is £16,190 or less
  • Working Tax Credit for four weeks after your employment finishes

*Universal credit

  • Free school meals now have amended regulations to implement a net earnings threshold of £7,400 to come into force from 1 April 2018
  • Any pupil eligible for free schools meals before 1 April 2018 will keep their free school meal eligibility until 31 March 2022
  • Any pupil who becomes eligible during the rollout of universal credit (from 01 April 2018 to 31 March 2022) will keep their eligibility until 31 March 2022
  • Once the rollout of universal credit has completed (31 March 2022), any pupil losing will continue to be transitionally protected until  the end of their current phase of education, e.g. primary/secondary school
  • This applies whether parents receive universal or legacy benefits
  • Pupils will keep their eligibility even if their circumstances change between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2022.
  • A child will be transitionally protected not the family, so if a sibling is receiving free school meals and another child applies after 1April 2018, there will be no transitionally protection (this also applies for a child who moves to live with another parent and/or family member)

We’ll only ask you to provide evidence of your income if we’re unable to get confirmation ourselves.

If your child goes to school outside of Waltham Forest, you should make a claim to that Borough.

All children in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2 in state-funded schools are entitled to free school meals, regardless of whether their families get qualifying benefits or not.

You can now apply online

We’re asking all parents and carers of children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 whose children attend school in Waltham Forest to complete an online universal infant free school meals form .

We’ll then be able to confirm throughout the year whether your child’s school is entitled to pupil premium funding for your child.

You can also print out, and complete the form, and return it to your child's school.

Download the Universal Infant Free School Meals form (691KB PDF).

Following the COVID-19 guidance on free school meals sent out by the Government, Waltham Forest Council is supporting our schools to help eligible parents access free school meals.  

Can my child still get their Free School Meals during Covid-19? 

Children who are eligible for free school meals can continue to receive this throughout the COVID-19 lock-down.

Schools are currently closed for all children except those of key workers and those meeting specific criteria however, every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, to limit the spread of the virus. Local schools are working together to ensure that free school meals continue to be delivered even if a school closes.   

If your child is eligible for free school meals and is attending school during the lock-down they will be given with a meal at school. Children who are eligible for free school meals but who are staying at home during this time will be provided with a range of options to access their meals.  

What free school meal options are available?  

Schools are encouraged to be flexible in how they deliver free school meals, providing families with the most appropriate option for their child. Schools may offer any of the following:  

  • On site food provision for children attending school during lockdown; 
  • Packed lunches or hot box takeaways to be collected from the child’s school or another local school 
  • Food vouchers which can be emailed to parents for use at local supermarkets; 
  • Weekly food hampers which may be picked up from the child’s school or another local school 

My child is at home, how can I organise their free school meals?  

Parents need to contact their school to discuss how they will access their child’s free school meal. They will discuss which of the options above parents can access and let you know how to collect the meal. 

If a parent is in self-isolation and cannot collect, what should they do?  

Schools are being encouraged to be flexible and if a parent cannot collect themselves, they’ll need to contact their school to discuss a different option. This may include nominating someone to collect on your behalf or, in some cases, the school may be able to deliver a weekly hamper. This is based on the staff available on the school site and may not be able to be offered at all times.   

If a parent is using the supermarket vouchers for their free school meals, what is the guidance on what to buy?  

Our local advice would be food that includes a variety of fruit and vegetables, these can be fresh, frozen or canned. Try and include a Rainbow of colours for added nutritional benefit.  

These can be eaten cooked or raw, fruit is often more popular if cut into bitesize pieces. For more healthy eating ideas and recipes please see Change 4 Life.

Supporting key workers  

We’re encouraging schools to consider to waiver charges for food to children of key workers who normally pay for school meals in recognition of the difficult conditions they are working in and the contribution they are making to the community.   

More information, advice and guidance on Covid-19.                 

Children in nursery can only get free school meals if they’re there for the whole day. If your child does mornings or afternoons only, they’re not entitled to free school meals.

You’ll be entitled to claim free school meals if your child is aged 16 - 18 and attending a further education funded institution; for example schools with Sixth forms, Academies, Free schools, etc.

If your child is aged 16 - 18 and attends a College or Sixth Form College, you’ll need to apply directly to the College or Sixth Form College.

If your child goes to a school outside of Waltham Forest you should make a claim to that borough.

How to apply Click to get info

You can apply online 

If you’re entitled, you will be able to print out proof of entitlement to take to your child's school straightaway.

At a LibraryPlus

You can get help making a claim and drop off evidence  at the libraries below Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. We can check if you’re entitled, and if so, we can give you a letter to take to the school.

If we can't decide on your application there and then, we’ll give you a "holding letter" to take to the school. This letter will say that you have made an application but it hasn't yet been decided.

Making an online claim for Free School Meals at:

  • North Chingford Library: The Green, Chingford, E4 7EN
  • Walthamstow Library: High Street, Walthamstow, E17 7JN
  • Leyton Library: High Road Leyton, E10 5QH
    Leytonstone Library: 6 Church Lane, Leytonstone, London E11 1HG

When you claim Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support

You can also apply for free school meals when you claim Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support. Just make sure you answer the free school meal questions when filling in the form.

After we receive your application, we’ll check if your child is entitled to free school meals and write to you to let you know our decision. If you’re entitled to free school meals, we’ll also tell your child's school. After we receive your application, we’ll check if your child is entitled to free school meals and write to you to let you know our decision. If you’re entitled to free school meals, we’ll also tell your child's school.

You must tell the Benefits Service of any changes that might affect your entitlement.

Some of these are:

  • Your tax credit changes
  • You start work
  • You change address
  • Your child changes school
  • You stop getting benefits or your benefits change

Use the online form to report a change in your circumstances if you are claiming benefit.

School administrators Click to get info

Administrators in schools can check pupil entitlements to free school meals online.

Sign in to our online service

If you don't have access to a computer, you can visit a Library Plus branch where you can use a self-service pc to log your request/report.  Staff are available to support you if you need it.​​​​​​​

Contact Click to get info

Free School Meals Service

London Borough of Waltham Forest PO Box 856 
E17 9PN 
Telephone: 020 8496 8506/8505 

ECitizen Portal 
Telephone: 020 8496 8473