Setting Up Meals - A step by step guide

If your school wants to use Meals in Arbor, follow the instruction below to set this up on your site.


  • Meals: Administer All Students - Set up meals for students
  • Finance: Administer - Set prices for the meals

If you don't have the permission, you'll need to ask your admin team to give you permission using these instructions.

How long will it take?

  • Add a meal - 1 minute
  • Add provisions - 5 minutes
  • Add prices for meals - 15 minutes
  • Schedule meal sittings - 5 minutes
  • Add meal attendees - 5 minutes
  • (Optional) Add meal choices - varies depending on number of students


Setting up your meals

Before you set anything up

Before setting up meals, check you have set up card payments in Arbor it is important to set up your school payment accounts. You need to have the information in the system as to how the money you take for meals will be accepted and recorded.

Go to School > Payments > Initial Setup.

Work through the list from top to bottom, and create a Customer Account type for meals. Arbor helps you manage payments received for Clubs, Trips and Meals by creating 3 separate account types. 


Note: When setting up your payment accounts you are able to enter initial balances for students outstanding from your previous system. You can only enter initial balances ONCE so please double check you have accounted for all outstanding amounts before completing this.


Once you've set up your meal, the School > Meals > Setup page should look like this with one meal set up. The only step that can be left with a cross is the final step. This step auto-fills the meal register with a pre-determined meal choice.



Step 1 - Add a meal

Once you've set up the meal accounts, you need to name the meals the school provides, eg Lunch.

Go to School > Meals > select Setup from the left-hand menu.



Once in Setup click on the Create Meal button.



In the slide over enter the name of the meal and which account type (auto set to Meals) you want this to be linked to.



Step 2 - Add provisions

Provisions are the types of meals for students or staff. All possible options should be labelled here with a meal price(s) attached. To set up a provision, click on the 'Provisions' option in the Meal's set up checkbox.




Provisions are the types of meal your school provides for students or staff.

Depending on the context of your school's meals, Arbor suggests setting up these provisions:

  1. School Meal can be set for students who require a meal. You can later set a price of £0 for students who are FSM or UFSM, and a full price for the non-FSM students - this is one provision with two prices.
  2. Absent - This will mean that when a child is absent Arbor will automatically remove the meal from their record for the day. When setting up, do not tick 'Requires Meal' but tick ' Is Absent' - this will automatically make Arbor pick up any children who are not in and give them this provision of no meal which will not have a price.
  3. Packed Lunch - This is a provision for students who bring their own lunch to school from home. Nothing will need to be ticked and no price will need to be given. 
  4. Staff Meal - You may have two prices; one paid for and one on duty (free), so that each staff member can choose depending on their schedule and have this recorded easily. Please note, if you want to have two different prices for staff meals, you'll need to set up two provisions as you can only select 'All Staff' for staff meal prices.



In the slide over you need to enter details about the provision.


  • Meal - Lunch 2 is what we have called our overall meal (you may, in addition, want to add a meal of Breakfast Club).
  • Meal provision name - This is where you enter what you will call the meal eg. School Lunch; Staff Meal.
  • Meal type - Select from the options which description best fits the provision. In the above example, we have selected 'A hot meal prepared by the school'. Make sure you add an absent meal type so students who are not present will not be charged.

Then click on the green 'Add Provision' button.

Note: If you are a school that has set choices every day then you can set separate provisions for clearer records for the kitchen and finances, e.g. 'Jacket Potato', or 'Sandwiches'. You may also have a provision for packed lunches provided by the school for school trips.

For anything more complicated, please speak to Arbor Support.


Step 3 - Add pricing

Please note, if you can't complete these actions, you may not have the necessary permissions (the Finance: Administer permission). Please contact your Admin staff to help with this.

Enter a price by clicking '+Add' in the prices' table. This will automatically charge students and staff for the food taken.



With chargeable meals, remember to add a price for Free School Meals

We recommend you add a new price for KS1 pupils in regards to UFSM, e.g. for Reception and Year 1 pupils.



You will now have a list of all the meal provisions with prices, your school offers.



When you have finished creating provisions, click on the Back button.

You will see that you are half-way through the process of setting up the lunches - nearly done!



Step 4 - Schedule Meal Sittings

A sitting is where and what time the meal will take place. You can set up more then one sitting if you split up students meal times, e.g. if KS1 and KS2 have different meal times.

Click on 'Meal Sittings Schedule' in the table. 

Click the green 'Add Sitting' button to put in the days and times. 

Next, click on the 'Schedule Meal Sessions for XXXX' (this example is KS1 but this will have the name you have called your sitting here.)


A slide-over will appear to enter further details into.


If your meal session will be at the same time every day, just leave the 'Day of the week' field blank. The same applies to 'Terms'.

Click on 'Schedule Meal Sessions' to complete.



Note: Make sure that lunch starts after scheduled lessons end. Otherwise, this will create an attendance clash for students.

Once you've created your meal sessions, you can click in on your sessions to assign a staff member to the session. This will add the meal timetable slot to the staff members calendar and help them track which meals they are supervising.  


Part 5 - Attendees

This part adds students to the meal registers to enable teachers to mark students in certain classes down for each meal. If you don't complete this step, you won't have any students in your meal registers!



Go to the 'Automatic Group Attendees' tab, then click +AddIn the slide-over select the class/classes you wish to automatically enrol in this sitting. Click on the arrow at the end of the box to see the drop-down menu.


You must select all the groups of students you wish to add to this sitting, or they will not appear in the meal registers.

Once you have added your groups, your Automatic Group Attendees tab might look something like this:



Optional - Regular Meal Choices

This final step is not mandatory. This part of the setup is to assign each student a regular meal choice so that teachers or administration staff do not have to enter this manually each day.

If any changes happen during the day, the admin team can easily make the changes. 



Click on the 'Add Meal Choices' green button.

A slide over will load entitled 'Add Meal Choice' where the first drop-down list for 'Attendee' is to choose the student(s) on the same meal provision. 



Tick the days the students will be taking the provision.



Choose the meal provision from the drop-down and update the effective start and end date, then click on 'Save Changes'.

The list can also be downloaded by clicking on 'Download'.




Do I have to set up meals every year?

No, you can copy over your meal set up next academic year, this is part of your New School Year Setup process.   

What is a meal provision?

A meal provision in Arbor is your meal choice. You can have a very basic set up ie Hot Lunch, Packed Lunch, Staff Meal or a more complex set up ie Blue Lunch, Green Lunch.

Can meal provisions have different prices?

Yes! You can set up different prices for your different provisions.

Do I set up a meal provision for Free School Meal and Universal Free School Meal pupils?

No, you don’t need to set up a separate provision for FSM and UFSM pupils. You should add a zero price for FSM and UFSM in each provision added. The system will then recognise those pupils who fall into these categories and an invoice will not be raised.


We have different lunchtimes for different students, can we set this up?

Yes, you can create different sittings for different key stages or year groups to accommodate different lunchtimes.

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