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Free school meal for all primary school children

November 6, 2019 9:34 AM

Free school meal for all primary school children

A Liberal Democrat government will provide free lunches to all primary school children and to all children whose families receive Universal Credit.

Studies carried out in Hull and Scotland have proved what many of us have suspected for some time, that children who eat healthy school meals rather than packed lunches score higher marks in tests, concentrate longer in the classroom and are less disruptive.[1] School lunches make a significant contribution to overall diet, providing around a third of daily energy intake among children of primary school age. Meals served in most state primary schools must meet Department of Education food standards to ensure that children have healthy, balanced diets. However, research indicates that 60% of school children in England do not eat school meals, including many who are eligible for free meals.[2]

Free School meals improve take-up of nutritious food

A Scottish Government trial which provided free lunches to all 4-7-year-olds resulted in a 22% increase in overall take-up of school meals.[3] Take-up increased even amongst children already entitled to free school meals due to peer effect; children became more likely to use their entitlement to free school meals "because a greater proportion of other students in the school were doing so."[4]

Overcoming Stigma and the Poverty Trap

Introducing free school meals to all primary school children will eliminate the stigma that some families attach to this entitlement and will also remove a significant disincentive for some parents to move into employment that can result from removal of free school meals.

Julia Aglionby confirmed that "a Liberal Democrat government is committed to introducing free meals for all primary school children. It is a key part of our education policy."

Healthy Children

Providing healthy, nutritious school meals for primary school children is essential if we are to reduce levels of obesity in children. 20% of 11-year-olds are now classed as obese [5] and this is in part due to lunchtime consumption of processed food high in sugar, salt, fat and other additives. Overweight children are more likely to become obese adults, at risk of developing health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. NHS in England spent an estimated £6.1 billion on overweight and obesity-related ill-health in 2017/18; this is more than the Government spent on the police, fire service and judicial system combined. [6] Introduction of free meals for all primary school children by a Liberal Democrat government will begin to reverse this trend and defuse the health time bomb being created by childhood obesity.

Breakfast Clubs

As your MP Julia Aglionby will also work with Carlisle City Council to establish Breakfast Clubs and gardens in our City's schools. All children need to have the opportunity to start their learning day with a decent meal in an orderly environment and to develop a better understanding of how food is grown. As with school lunches, there is considerable evidence to show the benefits of Breakfast Clubs on academic performance and attendance [7] whilst the use of school gardens has been shown to increase willingness to taste and choose fruit and vegetables.

References

  1. Prof.Derek Colquhoun
  2. Children's Food Trust
  3. Scottish Govt study P1 to P3 pupils in 2007/8
  4. www.iser.essex.ac.uk/publications/working-papers/iser/2012-12.pdf
  5. House of Commons Library Briefing Paper: Obesity Statistics, Number 3336, published 20 March 2018
  6. Childhood obesity: a plan for action - GOV.UK
  7. Children's Workforce Development/Avondale primary school data