School children to get free school meals

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All primary school children in Newham and County Durham are to get a free school meals as part of a pilot to reduce childhood obesity and improve the health of all children.

All secondary school pupils eating school lunches will also get a healthy, nutritionally balanced meal as the new nutrient standards come into force in secondary and special schools.

Both measures are designed to get all children developing healthy eating habits, so that they are encouraged to eat school meals from a young age throughout their school life and are not tempted to eat junk food when they reach secondary school.

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls said: “Eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime from a young age can help improve the behaviour of children in school and at home – that’s why these pilots are so important. Healthy school meals are vital to helping children do well at school and to prevent obesity.

“I encourage all families who are entitled to a free school meal to claim this valuable support. For those who are not eligible school meals are still a great deal and give parents good value for money. We know from recent research by the School Food Trust that parents with two children could save over £1,000 in a school year if they chose school meals – as well as the reassurance that their children are eating good quality, healthy food.

“We want to make sure that children are getting a healthy, balanced meal at school which is why we have introduced the new nutrient standards. Teenagers are the hardest group to reach but that doesn’t mean giving up, we must simply work harder to encourage them away from the take-away and into their school canteen."

Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Health said: "Obesity is the biggest health challenge this country faces. There are currently 1.5 million children who are overweight or obese, leaving them at an increased risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart and liver disease later in life.

"Nutritious school lunches can make eating well a healthy habit for life."

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