Scotland Adds Lunch During School Holidays for Low-Income Students

by Justin Taylor
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy Name:

Every Child, Every Chance: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22



Population: 5.45 million (Population UK, 2018)


Scotland’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan takes a comprehensive approach to addressing child poverty and related issues. The Plan engages with food insecurity by pledging to invest £1 million (almost $1.5 million) toward providing school lunches during holidays, when students from low-income families are most likely to experience food insecurity.

Progress to date:


Program/Policy Initiated:

The Child Poverty Act, which set the parameters for the Plan, was passed by Scottish Parliament in November 2017. The Plan itself was published in March 2018.

Food policy category:

Food Security

Social and Economic Equity

Program goals:

The program’s aim is to reduce food insecurity during school holidays.

How it works:

Scotland’s Fair Food Fund already provides £1 million for “dignified responses to food poverty.” Projects supported by the Fair Food Fund are intended to empower those suffering from food insecurity and to move away from using emergency food options like food pantries as a first response.

The Plan pledges to add £500,000 more to the Fair Food Fund’s budget in 2018-2019 and another £500,000 in 2019-2020, resulting in a total increase of £1 million over two years.

The investment will initially be used to fund research with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and other partners to map the provision of holiday school meals already in place and to identify the most effective program delivery solutions. For instance, East Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire have already been identified as two areas effectively offering holiday meals for students. Following the collection of this data, an action plan will be implemented in 2019 with the ultimate goal of providing free school lunches for all low-income students who need them during holidays.

Why it is important:

A report from UNICEF shows that food insecurity is fairly widespread in the UK, with 19 percent of children under the age of 15 living in households with some degree of food insecurity and 10 percent living in households with severe food insecurity. Although free students lunches are provided for children from low-income families throughout the UK, including Scotland, the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger reports that 38 percent of poor children in some parts of Britain do not receive free school lunches even though they are entitled to them. This is likely due to the bureaucracy surrounding applications for benefits.

Students who do not receive sufficient nutrition struggle both academically and socially. A study from the University of Michigan shows that food insecure children between the ages of 6 and 11 are more likely than their peers to receive low scores in math, repeat a grade, see a psychologist, and have difficulty getting along with others.

Research by the Child Poverty Action Group, whose goal is to bring about positive policy changes for families in the UK with children in poverty, shows that financial pressure often intensifies during holidays, resulting in an increase in food insecurity. According to a survey from the National Union of Teachers, 80% of teachers who responded that students in their school were affected by holiday hunger also noted an increase over the last two years. Several British advocacy groups, including the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty, the Trussell Trust, and What Works Scotland, have begun to push for more free school holiday meals.


The Fair Food Fund is responsible for implementing and evaluating holiday school lunches.

Learn more:

Point of Contact:

Scottish Government

Similar practices:

In the United States, the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program serves more than 200 million meals to low-income children during summer vacation. Most other holiday feeding programs are run by nonprofits rather than government entities. These include Make Lunch in the UK and Summerlunch+ in Canada.


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