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Improving health
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Monitoring changes in uptake

Every year the Scottish Government collects data on school meal uptake from schools as part of the Healthy Living Survey.

As part of the evaluation of universal infant free school meals (UFSM) for Primary 1 to 3 children in Scotland, this data is being used to monitor whether (as per the theory of change):

  • school meal and free school meal consumption increases
  • this may lead to cost savings for families
  • this may lead to improvements in children's diets.

The data from the Healthy Living Survey provides a snapshot of school meal activity for a typical day in February.

This means the data doesn’t capture variation in school meal uptake from day to day or across the school year.

Full report and summary

You can download a copy of the full analysis of the 2016 Healthy Living Survey and a summary of the analysis in our publications section.

Summary of findings

In 2016

  • free school meal uptake amongst P1-3 pupils increased for the second year
  • the proportion of all primary pupils (P1-7) taking a school meal (free or paid) also increased for the second year with 2 our of every 3 primary pupil lunches being school meals.

This suggests that in 2016

  • more families benefitted financially from universal infant free school meals
  • more primary pupils benefitted nutritionally from having school meals. 

However free school meal uptake varied across schools and local authorities in 2016. This suggests that the distribution of the financial benefits of the policy is uneven across Scotland.

Analysis indicates that the most deprived schools had the highest uptake of free school meals. This would suggest that the families who stand to benefit the most continue to benefit the most financially from the free school meals. 



Ongoing monitoring of primary school meal uptake data would allow

  • longer-term monitoring of the impact of universal infant free school meals on lunch choices of those children eligible for the policy, as they age
  • monitoring of the impact of universal infant free school meals on school lunch choices amongst older non-eligible primary children in the short-term
  • identification of schools or local authorities with lower levels of free-school-meal uptake, which may require additional support to increase uptake. 


Last updated 26th October 2015 

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