Free school meals given go ahead

14/05/2009 - 00:00
An additional 44,000 young people in Scotland will be eligible for free school meals from August this year, according to The Scottish Government.

Regulations to extend the entitlement to nutritious, free school lunches were brought before the Scottish Parliament yesterday (13 May).

All pupils whose parents receive both maximum Child Tax Credit and maximum Working Tax Credit will become eligible for free school meals. This means that low income parents in employment are not unfairly penalised.

Further plans to provide all Primary one to Primary three pupils in Scotland with free school lunches will come into effect from August 2010, with the aim of encouraging healthy eating habits from a young age.

Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, said: "The Scottish Government is committed to helping Scotland's hard-pressed families as much as we can, particularly in these times of economic uncertainty. Extending the free school lunches entitlement will make a real difference for these families - with an average saving of £9 per week for each child.

"This measure will also ensure that more young people receive a healthy and nutritious lunch every school day. We are determined to improve the health of the nation and encouraging healthier eating habits at a young age is an important step.

"That's why we have introduced new healthy guidelines for all food provided in schools and are bringing in changes that will allow every P1-P3 pupil in Scotland to receive a free school meal each lunchtime from August next year."

John Dickie, Head of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "With more families facing real financial pressure, this extension of free school lunches entitlement couldn't come at a better time. Too many children in poverty have missed out on free school lunches because their parents worked.

"Alongside the roll out of free school lunches for all P1-P3 children, this is a major step toward ensuring all our children get a healthy meal during the school day. It will help boost children's health, education and wellbeing, free up stretched family budgets for other essentials and mean that more parents can move back into work without losing out on an important benefit."

New, healthy school food guidelines came into effect in all primary schools from August last year. Schools must provide balanced and nutritious meals and not offer sweets or fizzy drinks. At least two portions of fruit and vegetables are served every lunchtime; deep fried food is limited to three items each week; and oily fish must be served at least once every three weeks. From August 2010 these measures will also apply in secondary schools.

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