Close menu

FixOurFood in schools – Initiatives

FixOurFood in Schools Initiatives

Besides the FixOurFood in Schools research network  we are currently working on:

Auto-enrolment for Free School Meals

What is the problem?

Around one in ten children who are entitled to Free School Meals (FSM) are not currently receiving them. This means that they are missing out on a hot, healthy meal, and that their families are unnecessarily having to cover the cost of a school dinner or a packed lunch each day. In addition, schools are not accessing the Pupil Premium funding available for each child in their school who receives FSM.

In most areas, parents need to apply for FSM via their local authority or school. Auto-enrolment is a term commonly used to describe the alternative process or processes that are put in place to simplify the Free School Meals application procedure. This means that as many children as possible who are entitled to FSM are able to receive them without their families having to directly apply. It also leads to more Pupil Premium funding for schools. 

What are we doing to help?

We know that auto-enrolment has the potential to have a huge impact. Sheffield introduced auto-enrolment processes in 2016, and between then and 2022, an additional 6,403 children were registered for FSM, and Sheffield schools benefited from an extra £3.8 million in Pupil Premium funding.

We are leading an action-oriented project to support and evaluate the implementation of auto-enrolment processes within local authorities, both in Yorkshire and nationwide. 

We also aim to provide evidence for, and support campaigning on, FSM auto-enrolment on a national level, so that the process for being registered for FSM is taken on by government departments (Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions). Putting FSM auto-enrolment processes in place at this level will ensure that as many children as possible from very low income households are receiving the support to which they are entitled.

FixOurFood is carrying out this work as part of the wider UKRI funded project.


Image of children receiving a healthy school lunch

Free School Meal Allowance project

What is this?

The Free School Meal (FSM) Allowance project is a research and advocacy initiative we are delivering  alongside The Food Foundation. We are working with 42 students from 7 secondary schools from around Yorkshire. The young people have been trained as citizen scientists to undertake research in their own schools, to explore whether the current FSM allowance is sufficient for them to be able to buy tasty, healthy and sustainable food in school every day. 

Who is involved?

In partnership with The Food Foundation, we are working with schools in North Yorkshire, Bradford, Rotherham, Leeds, Kirklees and Halifax.

What have we done?

We brought the participating students together at the University of York, and trained them to undertake research within their own schools. The young people developed their own research questions, and planned how they would deal with any possible issues. Over one week in March 2023, these young citizen scientists were tasked with choosing the tastiest, healthiest and most sustainable food they could, with the FSM allowance. They noted their purchases and observations. We then visited each of the schools to eat lunch with the students and  hear about their experiences during the research week. 

The outcome

On 29th November 2023 the FixOurFood in Schools team, The Food Foundation and some of our citizen scientists traveled to Parliament to present their findings. The event was well attended and all presentations were delivered by young people. We also launched our latest report detailing the findings. Please see a link to the report below.  The event was supported by the Child of the North All Party Parliamentary Group, and sponsored by Rachael Maskell MP.  We will continue to share our findings on social media, in a podcast and in the wider media. 

Link to the report: A Better Deal for Free School Meals


Leaders for change speaking to a cohort of school age people

Leaders for Change

What is the Leaders for Change programme?

Leaders for Change involves a representative cohort of Yorkshire secondary schools. Whilst highlighting the excellent work already going on in their schools towards a more sustainable future, FixOurFood aims to empower young people to get involved in tackling the current issues we face. We offer opportunities to get involved in research, debates and activities all relating to the FixOurFood aims and practices involving the Yorkshire food system. Together, through a joint advocacy programme, we hope to make lasting change towards a regenerative food system, giving students a platform to highlight their concerns and facilitate the change they strive to achieve.

What does it mean to be a Leaders for Change school?

Those recruited to the network will have access to multiple opportunities across the duration of the project, such as:

  • Attending sessions to provide advice and feedback on what issues they think are important.
  • Helping design new school food environments and catering experiences.
  • Helping design new school food menus which have low carbon footprints and benefit health.
  • Engaging with stakeholders across the Yorkshire food system.
  • Reporting back to their respective schools and consulting leadership working towards a whole-school approach to food.

Leaders for Change schools have engaged in many events since FixOurFood’s formation, including:  

  • Attending the programme launch event and starting to think about priority areas for school food
  • Attending a Three Horizons school food workshop
  • Supporting facilitation within a ‘Meaty Debate’ with primary school children
  • Representing schools and young people at the FixOurFood Anchor Institutions launch event
  • Speaking out at the FixOurFood Yorkshire Food System Summit
  • Trips to FixOurFood partner organisations such as Grow It York Vertical Farm at Spark

See some of the amazing work being carried out within Leaders for Change schools that was shown to all those who attended the Yorkshire Food System Summit in March 2023. The video can be accessed and downloaded through this link:

FixOurFood Leaders for Change video

If you are a Yorkshire Secondary school and interested in joining the Leaders for Change programme, please get in contact at: fixourfoodinschools@york.ac.uk


Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme

What is HAF?

FixOurFood in schools is involved in The Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme which provides free healthy meals and activities to children eligible for free school meals during the school holidays.

Why is HAF important?

The school holidays are a known pressure point for families – with increased costs such as food, childcare and reduced incomes. 23% of children aged 7-17 experience food insecurity over the summer holidays. There is the added concern that learning loss over the summer holidays disproportionately impacts children from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

How has FixOurFood in schools supported HAF?

Researchers from FixOurFood carried out an evaluation of the HAF pilot scheme in 2021 across the following local authority areas – York, North Lincolnshire, Bradford and Sheffield. The findings were used to evaluate the the pilot scheme, including benefits and challenges experienced. 

You can read the full report here.  

We found that:

  1. Implementation varied across local authorities – which led to a difference in quality of provision.
  2. The meals served had a positive impact on food insecurity and attendees ate more healthily.
  3. Families felt the benefits of attending the holiday clubs – with opportunities for parents to work and for young people to socialise. Better behaviour at home was reported. 
  4. Local authorities on the whole delivered well-rounded programmes.

Recommendations to Parliament

In 2021 we made the following recommendations to Parliamentarians:

  1. Government should commit to long-term funding of HAF to enable local authorities to plan and build on the pilot year’s learnings. Ongoing evaluation will ensure the scheme is fit for purpose.
  2. Places on the programme should be available to all children, not just those with Free School Meal status to reduce stigma and to allow a wider group of children to benefit. A model of free and paid for places should be provided by local authorities, tailored to the local need.
  3.  The continued provision of tasty and varied meals should remain an important part of the HAF programme. 

What has happened as a result?

We presented our recommendations and findings widely, including to the Department for Education (DfE). DfE went on to recommend that the Government continue with HAF funding. 

In the October 2021 Budget, continued HAF funding was announced to the tune of £200 million.