Free School Meals - Guidance on producing food parcels
This guidance has been prepared jointly by LACA, PHE and DfE and sets out some general principles for putting together a food parcel which will allow parents/carers to prepare simple and healthy lunches for their child/children at home across the week.
1. Families and schools may find weekly food parcels easier than a more frequent approach. Minimise the fridge and freezer space needed to store foods, and do not rely on families having additional ingredients at home to prepare meals.
2. Food parcels should contain a balance of items from the different food groups, to reflect a healthy balanced diet for a child, as depicted by the Eatwell Guide (below) and in line with the School Food Standards. Each parcel should provide:
- A variety of different types of fruit and vegetables, to provide at least one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables each day. These can be fresh or tinned but it’s best to source versions tinned in water or fruit juice, with no added salt or sugar.
- Some protein foods (such as beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other non-dairy proteins), to provide a portion of food from this group every day. Meat and fish should be cooked (e.g. cooked ham or chicken slices) or tinned (e.g. tuna, salmon). Consider alternating between different protein foods to provide variety.
- Some dairy and/or dairy alternatives (such as milk, cheese, yoghurt), to provide a portion of food from this group every day.
3. Food parcels should not contain items restricted under the School Food Standards (e.g. confectionery, crisps). The Standards allow desserts at lunchtime, and we recommend desserts containing fruit, such as fruit cocktail, lower-fat fruit yoghurt, or malt loaf. Any pre-prepared meals provided must also meet School Food Standards.
4. An example of the types and quantities of foods that could be included in a parcel is detailed below, based on information from school caterers. Chilled items such as milk may need to be substituted with ambient alternatives if refrigeration is not possible. Caterers should prepare for food parcels by ensuring they have sufficient stocks of domestic-sized items such as tinned goods.
5. The Change4Life website offers some simple lunch ideas for children, which may be a useful guide when preparing a food parcel. Each set of recipes contains 5 easy, tasty, lunches, complete with shopping lists.
6. Parcels should cater for children who require special diets (e.g. allergies, vegetarians or religious diets) and schools should ensure there are systems in place to avoid cross-contamination. The Department for Education has published allergy guidance for schools.
The Department for Education has published wider guidance on providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
14 January 2021: Please note that given the DFE has agreed to fund an additional £3.50 per week for each FSM, this guidance is currently under review and in the process of being updated.
Example parcel for one child for five days:
The Eatwell Guide