You asked the Scottish Government to provide you with information about the number of families across Scotland who are eligible for free school meals, however, do not take up this service.
Whilst our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not hold the information in the format you have requested. The reason for this is because the Scottish Government does not have access to data which would allow us to identify every child across the country who may be eligible for Free School Meals. It is possible that some children and young people who may be eligible for free school meals might not have not registered to receive them. Therefore it would not be possible to say with certainty how many children and young people are actually eligible.
I will instead provide you with information about the number of children and young people who have registered to receive free school meals, but did not take them, since this information is publicly available on the Scottish Government's website.
With regards to the number of children and young people who have registered for free school meals, and the numbers taking them, this information is contained within the Scottish Government's Schools Healthy Living Survey statistics report. The most recent report was published on 8 September 2020 and it states that there are a total of 263,646 children and young people who were registered for free school meals at schools across Scotland in 2020.
This statistics report also states that, on the days that the survey was carried out, there were 184,606 children and young people present and taking free school meals. Therefore 79,040 children and young people who were registered for free school meals in 2020 did not take them.
This survey was carried out during the week beginning Monday 17 February 2020, and the report is available on the Scottish Government's website through the following link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/school-healthy-living-survey-statistics-2020/pages/2/
With regards to promoting the uptake of free school meals, you may be interested to note that education authorities have a statutory duty to promote the availability of school lunches at all schools under their management, and to encourage all pupils in attendance at those schools to consume school lunches. Furthermore, education authorities must take reasonable steps to ensure that every pupil who is entitled to receive school lunches free of charge, receives those lunches. This is provided for by section 53A of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1980/44/section/53A
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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