Green victory on free school meals

5 December 2008

Green Cllrs are celebrating after winning a key vote that will see Brighton & Hove City Council ask the Government for funding for a pilot scheme to provide all young people at the city's primary and secondary schools with free school meals.

Councillor Rachel Fryer, the Green Group's education spokesperson who laid down the motion calling on the council to bid for funding, said:

"I am delighted with this result. Giving every school child in the city a free school lunch could make a real difference to their life chances, their education and their general well being.

"But this isn't just about giving everyone a fair start in life: free school meals could prove a lifesaver for low income families facing rising food prices. Recent figures suggest they could save in the region of £300 per child on the costs of paying for school meals or pack lunches.

"This will also make a real difference to families who under current rules qualify for free school meals, but who don't take them. More than half of secondary school pupils in Brighton & Hove who are entitled to free school meals don't take them, in part because of the social stigma around the idea of a free lunch. Universal free school meals would put an end to this problem.

"Free school meals could also be part of a wider shift in the way children learn about food. A 'whole school approach' will benefit everyone. Children will engage with food throughout their school day, getting involved in growing and preparing their food, as well as having the time and space to enjoy eating healthy food together calmly as a social activity. Evidence suggests that this will improve behaviour, improve learning, reduce bullying (as they do not need to take money into school), and improve health and quality of life.

"Providing free, healthy school lunches is the common sense solution to tackling so many of the problems facing our children and their parents today. When it comes to childhood obesity, spiralling food costs or the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor areas, policies like this will go a long way to ensure a healthier, happier and fairer society."

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