In just over two weeks’ time, from the start of the new primary school year, a new initiative introduced by the Government will help parents on the Isle of Wight to save up to £1.3million on school lunches.
With around 3,146 children in the area – aged between four and seven – now eligible for free school lunches, many parents who have previously spent up to £400 a year on school lunches per child will reap the financial savings.
Government’s standards for school meals mean that parents can also be secure in the knowledge that their children will receive a healthy, nutritious lunch – something which studies have shown contributes to improved concentration and learning in the classroom. Evidence shows that only around 1% of packed lunches meet these standards.
While free school meals are means tested for all children from year 3 onwards, they are now available to all children in reception, year 1 and year 2.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg – who is spearheading the new initiative – said:
“Free school meals for infants will not only save families hundreds of pounds a year but will also have an impact on how a child performs in the classroom so that, regardless of their background, every child can have the best possible start in life.
“Pupils at the pilot schools who were all given free meals were found to be up to two months ahead of their peers elsewhere.
“This is one of the most progressive changes to our school system for a long time. My goal is to create a level playing field for all of our children so their success will be determined by their talents and efforts alone and not by their parents’ bank balance.”
These changes will also help towards reducing childhood obesity. Currently around 20% of children are already ‘obese’ by the time they leave primary school.
The new policy is just one aspect of the work that the Government is doing to improve the provision of meals in schools. In 2013 Government published the School Food Plan, which aims to transform what children eat in schools and how they learn about food. £150 million has been made available to improve schools’ kitchen and dining facilities, with an additional £22.5 million specifically to help smaller schools.
In September cooking is back on the curriculum, which combined with the good food eaten at school will “create a generation of children who enjoy food that makes them healthier, more successful and happier”.