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School Meals

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 24 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will publish in the Official Report the numbers of pupils eligible for free school dinners but not claiming; on what basis her Department's calculation is made; what is the estimate of the value of unclaimed meals; and what are the corresponding figures for the past five years.

Figures of pupils with an entitlement to free school meals are not known, but my Department estimates that in 1976–77 the number who did not claim free meals although eligible was about 300,000, representing £8·7 million worth of unclaimed meals. The calculation that about 75 per cent. of those entitled to free meals actually took them is based on information derived from supplementary benefit and family income supplement statistics and from analyses made by the Department of Health and Social Security of Family expenditure Surveys.The figures for earlier years are:

YearEstimated number of pupils eligible for free school meals but not claimingEstimated value of unclaimed meals £m.
The charge for a school dinner was 12p in 1971 and 15p in 1975.The abnormally high figure of unclaimed meals in 1975–76 is thought to be an indication that increased unemployment, amongst other factors, was not matched by applications for free meals.