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The ‘Good Food’ Case for the provision of Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) in Scotland

The ‘Good Food’ Case for the provision of Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) in Scotland

A Working Group of 15 organisations from across the school food sector (including APSE) has convened to create a Discussion Paper to outline key opportunities and recommendations for harnessing maximum benefits for Scottish children and young people.

Following on from the Scottish Government’s commitment to the introduction of Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) for primary school children by 2022, and to bring the ‘Good Food Nation’ Bill into Scottish law, a Working Group of 15 organisations from across the school food sector has convened to create a Discussion Paper to outline key opportunities and recommendations for harnessing maximum benefits for Scottish children and young people, their communities, and the environment.

School meals provide access to a daily healthy and nutritious meal to Scotland’s children and young people, supporting their well-being and fueling their learning whilst also playing an integral part in food education and culture.  The introduction of UFSM represents a key step on Scotland’s journey of becoming a ‘Good Food Nation’ as well as a tremendous opportunity for delivering multiple policy objectives to public health, child poverty reduction, community wealth building, environmental sustainability, and climate change mitigation. As Scotland emerges from the pandemic, school food has a vital role to play in achieving a green recovery.

Therefore, school meals are an ‘investment’ not a ‘cost’. The roll-out of UFSM will undoubtedly present logistical and financial challenges at a time when public budgets are under significant pressure. COVID-19 has left families and communities facing difficult choices and financial challenges, putting school meals into an even sharper focus. Investing in ‘Good Food’ provision in schools is an investment in Scotland’s priorities across public health, the economy, and the environment.

In the Discussion Paper, a number of recommendations are offered, including:

  • Prioritising local procurement of ethical and sustainably produced school food ingredients.
  • Adopting a ‘whole school approach’ to the provision of UFSM.
  • Facilitating the co-production of matters concerning the roll-out of UFSM with children and their families.
  • Ensuring wide stakeholder representation of all actors across the school food system in the FSM expansion programme to drive the ‘Good Food’ case
  • Developing a national recipe book of school meals that encourages the use of regional and seasonal produce
  • Actively promoting uptake of those national recipes among local authorities and more widely across the public sector
  • Adopting a clear and measurable standard for good school food by revising and mandating Better Eating, Better Learning.
  • Encouraging local authorities to adopt the Soil Association’s Food For Life Served Here (FFLSH) standard as an existing framework which can be utilised to achieve and measure ‘Good Food’ standards.
  • Drawing on existing tools and methods to include indicators for the economic and environmental sustainability of school food, e.g. local economic impact and carbon footprint.
  • Developing school food service standards around dining room design and environment, supervision, and all aspects of children's dining experience to complement nutritional requirements



Jayne Jones, Chair of ASSIST FM

‘The Scottish Government and local authorities have set strong foundations for providing universal, good quality and sustainably sourced school food. UFSM is a unique opportunity to build on these foundations and allow the public food sector to lead the way towards realising the access to ‘Good Food’ with meals served setting the tone for Scotland’s relationship with producers and providers as a ‘Good Food Nation’.’

Councillor John Shaw, Convener of Scotland Excel

‘We were delighted to be involved in this paper as it builds on the work we’ve been doing within our food portfolio on local sourcing of healthy food.  Over the past five years, spending by councils on Scottish products through Scotland Excel contracts has increased from £8.8m to £15.8m, and now accounts for more than 36% of our food portfolio spend. This is supporting Scottish businesses and reducing food miles. I welcome this paper, and look forward to Scotland Excel continuing to play an important part in the role out of free school meals.’

Sarah Duley, Head of Food, Soil Association Scotland

‘Soil Association Scotland welcomes the publication of this report. The expansion of universal free school meal provision has enormous potential to deliver on a range of policy areas, from health to environmental, and bring us closer to becoming a good food nation. Increasing access to sustainably produced, locally sourced and freshly prepared food through the uptake of our Food for Life Scotland programme will help ensure that this is the case and that school meals deliver on their potential. We encourage policymakers to read this report carefully and consider not just the cost of a school meal but the value.’

The full Discussion Paper can be found at the following link:

The ‘Good Food’ Case for the provision of Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) in Scotland


For any questions regarding the paper, contact Jayne Jones, Chair of ASSIST FM -



Note to Editors:

Organisations who support this discussion paper are:

ADES Resources Network

ALLIANCE (Health and Social Care alliance Scotland)



Brakes Scotland


Common Weal

Earth In Common

The Food Foundation


Nourish Scotland


Scotland Excel

Soil Association Scotland



Sustainable Food Places

UNISON Scotland

Unite the Union

University of Edinburgh Business School

Zero Waste Scotland


Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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