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Free school meals starting September 1, 2023: how to get discounted lunches and how food quality is assessed

Date: December 9, 2023 Time: 20:17:26

Free hot meals are provided to all students in grades 1-4 without exception, once during the school day.

Photo: Alexey BULATOV

School feeding reform began in 2020. Little by little, schools transitioned to the new system. They have been given three years to prepare, and starting September 1, all students in grades 1-4 will be entitled to free hot meals in schools. At the same time, a large amount of money has already been allocated from the federal budget to help regions get food for primary school students (see “Officially”). What has changed? Is there less reason for parents to worry?


– Free hot meals are provided to all students in grades 1-4 without exception, once during the school day. It can be lunch or breakfast. The main thing is that the menu should include a hot dish. What and when the schoolchildren will eat, each school decides for itself, based on medical recommendations and regulatory documents, explains to KP Vladimir Chernigov, head of the Industrial Union for the Development of Social Nutrition (SoyuzSotsPit).

This is what everyone deserves. But there are categories of children who can count on two free meals a day (see “Important!”). These are schoolchildren from low-income families and students with disabilities, for example, children with disabilities.

A separate issue is schoolchildren with disabilities studying at home. They receive dry rations. There may be additional regional benefits for certain categories of students.

It is clear that schools can “decide for themselves” in very different ways. But here certain limits are established. In particular, there is SanPiN (sanitary norms and rules), which came into force in 2021, where a separate chapter is devoted to the organization of children’s nutrition. And other regulatory documents that are binding (see “Important!”).


Photo: Dmitry POLUKHIN

– Since May 1 of this year, the government also changed the procedure for drawing up the school menu, – says Vladimir Chernigov. – Now the contracting companies must negotiate the diet of the children with the direction of the educational institutions. In addition, the need to coordinate dietary nutrition is prescribed if any of the students need it.

The nature of school menus and their compliance with all regulations is supervised by the Federal Center for Monitoring Student Nutrition, created under the Ministry of Education. Menu tracking is done automatically for all schools (educational institutions upload their menus to a special platform). The same center has developed examples of typical menus for the youngest, as well as a lot of methodological recommendations…

Will they all be happy now?


School feeding is a complex issue. According to the SuperJob survey, which was conducted last fall, most parents rated its taste and quality a 3 (28% of respondents) and a 4 (27%). The average score is 3.4 out of 5.

It is true that it is not very clear to what extent these evaluations can be taken seriously. As explained in the survey itself, some regions have a “parental control” system. And representatives of parents taste the products that their children will eat. But this is not the case everywhere: moms and dads often talk about the taste and quality of school meals from the words of their children, who do not always like exactly what is good for health. (Hamburgers and Coke would surely be much more successful than grits).

The information from Rospotrebnadzor seems more objective. It is not about “tasty”, but about compliance with sanitary and epidemiological regulations and the rules of healthy eating. According to the department, about 20,000 orders were issued last academic year to eliminate school feeding violations. But overall, in the last three years, the number of schools receiving this type of instruction has dropped by a factor of three.

Parents, judging by their comments on social networks, are skeptical of all this information. Few people care about the country’s overall numbers when a child says he saw a cockroach in the delivery at his school cafeteria and cold “hot meals” are served there.

Starting September 1, all students in grades 1-4 will be eligible for free hot meals at schools.

Photo: Ekaterina MARTINOVICH


On the eve of the new academic year, deputies of the State Duma Education Committee came up with an initiative: it is necessary to introduce GOST for hot meals in schools. In other words, a single standard with a basic list of dishes to which a student is entitled, depending on their age and state of health. The motivation is as follows: now the children find themselves in an unequal situation. All is well in the advanced schools, but in some laggards, especially in the “depressed” regions, they are fed in such a way that the children simply refuse to eat it and go hungry.

SoyuzSotsPita director Vladimir Chernigov believes that we can rather talk about a unified approach to restoration. Since it is impossible, for example, to unite the regions of the Caucasus and the northern regions to the same standard, and it will not work. The country is large, with different culinary traditions and a different set of fresh produce available.

Experts also point to another problem. GOSTs, unlike SanPiN, are not mandatory for us. That is, if you claim that you work according to GOST, you must comply with it. But you can’t say it and work like before.

– If the standard is not for everyone, why is it necessary? Our task is not to create a document, but to make children eat, – Andrei Plyshevsky, chairman of the board of directors of the Association of Social Catering Operators, is perplexed on Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda.

There is another problem here. Products are getting more and more expensive. And the money from the federal budget for 2023, 2024 and 2025 for the organization of free school meals is the same (see “Official”). This is supposed to be only co-financing, the regions and municipalities have to find the rest themselves. But, as is well known, not everyone always succeeds. And what kind of food providers will take on “standardization” obligations when it is not clear if there is enough money to meet them?


Photo: Dmitry POLUKHIN

Judging by the statistics of Rospotrebnadzor (see above), so far compliance with the mandatory SanPiN in our canteens and school canteens is not one hundred percent.

In the meantime, parents offer an easy way out: introduce mandatory “parental controls” everywhere (and not just some places). For example, mothers are the best Rospotrebnadzor, they will not allow them to spend the allocated state money in vain, they will shake their souls. And no additional funding is needed for this control.


How to Get Free Discounted Meals for a Child

Parents whose children will be in grades 1-4 are eligible for one-time free hot meals; no written requests are required. But two meals a day for certain categories of children is a declarative benefit. That means you have to take care of it.

– In order for a child to receive two free meals a day at school, his parents must submit an application and documents to the local social security authority (they will tell you which ones. – Ed.), – Vladimir Chernigov explains. – Having considered all the circumstances, the representatives of the state structure will accept or deny the granting of benefits.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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