Less than 5% of primary schools in Essex have "adequate" facilities to cook enough dinners for their infant-aged pupils, it has emerged.
In six months' time, all four, five and six year olds will be entitled to free hot meals at school.
But in Essex the expected cost of getting all kitchens ready is £4.7m - more than the £3.1m given to Essex County Council.
Despite this the council said it was confident most sites would be ready.
Last year, the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced £22.5m to help small schools prepare for the implementation of the scheme.
Under the government's plans, each small school will receive a minimum of £3,000 funding to extend or improve kitchen facilities, and address transitional costs.
This is on top of the £2.30-per-child per day each school will receive in revenue funding.
But the figures, which were released by Essex County Council after a Freedom of Information request, show just 15 of 343 schools have "adequate" facilities to cater for all infant-aged pupils.
Peter Malcolm, the headteacher at Rayleigh Primary School, said schools had changed significantly since the days when all pupils tended to eat school dinners.
"They have got to think of planning permission, you've got to think about going to tender, somebody needs to manage it and then of course the building has to be made if it is a new kitchen," he said. "And for some, that is going to be a tall order."
'Extra to help'
Mr Malcolm said getting his own school ready for September would be a struggle.
Ray Gooding, cabinet member for schools on the county council, said he was "confident" most sites would be ready in time.
"Clearly we would always have liked more money, we would always like more money for everything," said Mr Gooding.
"But that [the gap between Government funding and the expected costs] is largely being filled by the schools' own funds and we are doing extra to help where it is needed."