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There is such a thing as a free lunch - Farron

November 5, 2013 1:37 PM

Tim Farron MP at Kendal Nursery SchoolMore than 350,000 children will be offered a free two course meal this week to celebrate the Great School Lunch.

The 20th annual National School Meals Week is taking place this week and is the biggest healthy eating awareness week aimed at children in England and Wales. The event is organised by LACA, the lead association for catering in education, who work with schools to promote healthy school meals in primary and secondary schools.

Tim and the Liberal Democrats have welcomed the LACA initiative to get as many pupils in England and Wales to try school food rather than bring a lunch box from home.

In September Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that from next year, every child in infant school in England will receive a free school lunch. From September 2014 all school pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, including 15,078 children in Cumbria, will benefit from a free hot and healthy meal at lunchtime. The scheme should save parents around £437 a year for each child.

There are currently 2,168 Cumbrian children aged five, six and seven who get free school meals - around 14 per cent of the infant-age pupils at the county's schools this year.

Universal free school meals for primary school pupils were a key recommendation in a recent review of school food produced independently for the Department for Education. The review found that, in pilots where all children had been given a free school dinner, pupils were academically months ahead of their peers elsewhere and more likely to eat vegetables at lunchtime.

Tim said: "Every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day. Healthy meals are of fundamental importance to the health, well-being and successful education of all our children. Giving every child a free school meal will make a huge difference to their life chances.

"Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze. During the course of a year, the average family spends £400 on lunch for each child. We are determined to ease the financial burden for these families and give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

"By prioritising funding for free school meals for all infants, we are ensuring that all children have the best possible start in life."

Schools Minister David Laws MP added: "We know that regularly eating a nutritious school meal can increase a child's educational attainment, so it is fantastic that through National School Meals Week free meals will be provided to 350,000 children.

"From September 2014 we will provide funding for all infant school pupils to eat healthy meals during the school day. Free school meals for all infant school pupils will save parents an average of £400 a year, and make sure every child can get the nutritious lunch that will help them do well at school."