More primary school children can look forward to free healthy school lunches from September as Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls today announced an extension of free school meals pilots.
The Secretary of State congratulated local authorities who will pilot universal free school meals for primary age children. Bradford, Islington and Nottingham are piloting across the whole local authority with Cumbria and Medway targeting the universal offer to specific areas of the local authority.
The new pilots join three earlier ones in Durham, Newham and Wolverhampton. Durham and Newham are also testing universal free school meals for all primary age children and Wolverhampton are testing extended eligibility for free school meals.
These eight pilots will investigate whether free school meals:
- reduce obesity
- change eating habits at home
- impact on behaviour and academic performance at school
- improve school standards
- improve general health and well-being.
The new pilots will start in September 2010 and last for one academic year. The three earlier pilots started in September 2009 and will last for two years.
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls said:
I am delighted that thousands more children will now be able to enjoy the many benefits of a free healthy school lunch. I hope children and families in the pilot areas quickly see the benefits that a free school lunch can bring.
We know good health is vital if children and young people are to enjoy their childhood and achieve their full potential. We want to support all families, children and young people to make healthy choices and lead as healthy a life as possible and these pilots will provide us with important information on the impact of having a free, healthy, hot meal each day. I hope that enjoying nutritious meals from a young age will also establish healthy eating habits for life.
The School Food Trust’s Chair, Rob Rees, said:
This is an invaluable opportunity for these areas to use healthier school lunches to make a difference in so many ways for so many young children.
We know that a good school lunch helps to improve children’s health, welfare and performance, and these new pilots will mean that thousands more families can enjoy those benefits for free.
By taking part, these local authorities have put school lunch not just at the heart of the school day but also at the centre of so much of their work to improve the quality of life for local children - we look forward to working closely with them as the pilots progress.
The cost of each pilot will depend on the number of children involved.
All local authorities were invited to apply. Bids were assessed against the following criteria: the local authority could match fund a primary free school meals pilot for one year; schools and the local authority have the capacity to deliver the pilot from September 2010; where several bids were received from one Government Office region they were assessed against high free school meal eligibility and low take up; and value for money of each bid.
The Cumbria and Medway pilots are targeting specific areas of the local authority. In Cumbria primary age children who attend schools in Millom and Workington will benefit. In Medway seven schools are involved:
- Skinner Street Primary School
- Saxon Way Primary School
- Luton Infant School
- Luton Junior School
- St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Gillingham
- Burnt Oak Primary School
- Wayfield Community Primary School.