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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Free school meals for all

Monday, September 14, 2009

A June 2009 evaluation of the free school meal pilots for primary school children shows some startling results. These pilots produced a marked improvement in the health of the kids, made them more aware of healthy eating which will help tackle obesity, reduced stigma about traditional free school meals and positive changes to pupil’s behaviour were observed. We should respond to this evidence and ensure that all primary school children have the opportunity to enjoy free and healthy breakfasts and lunches at school.

 

The study reported that around 43% of teachers in the pilots said that pupils had more energy and were more alert throughout the school day. A healthy breakfast and lunch increased the pupil’s willingness and ability to learn which in turn increases attainment. There was a 75% take up of free school meals during the trials which also helped reduce the stigma which is often attached to pupils at present.

 

Providing a healthier diet helped increase knowledge of healthy eating - 86% of respondents agreed that children knew more than before the pilot schemes started. Improving diets at school filters out to home life, 20% more children said they started to have an evening meal at home. As the pilot showed in Hull 67% of children said they knew more about social aspects of eating than before.

 

Some schools that have set up breakfast clubs have also seen an improvement in punctuality and attendance through encouraging poor attenders to come for their breakfast. Others use the breakfast club to strengthen community relationships by inviting along local police officers and community workers.

 

So how de we pay for it? It cost 1million a year in Hull it could be nearly 1billion for England and Wales. Together with current free school meal and healthy eating budgets, we should use planned increases in child tax credits, and divert monies from obesity budgets from the Department of Health.

 

It seems to me that implementing a policy with so many positive benefits should be an immediate priority. We can bring it into being for primary school children by Christmas if we have the political will.

 

  • Figures are from the Association of Public Service Excellence briefing of June 2009.  


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