Mike Thornton MP has welcomed the news that more than 350,000 children will be offered a free two course meal this week to celebrate the 20th annual National School Meals Week.
This year National School Meals Week takes place from 4 to 8 November and is the biggest healthy eating awareness week aimed at children in England and Wales. The event is organised by LACA, the lead association for catering in education, which work with schools to promote healthy school meals in primary and secondary schools.
In September Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that from next year, every child in infant school in England will receive a free school lunch.
From September 2014 all school pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, including 43, 491 children in Hampshire will benefit from a free hot and healthy meal at lunchtime.
Universal free school meals for primary school pupils were a key recommendation in a recent review of school food produced independently for the Department for Education. The review found that, in pilots where all children had been given a free school dinner, pupils were academically months ahead of their peers elsewhere and more likely to eat vegetables at lunchtime.
Schools Minister David Laws said:
"We know that regularly eating a nutritious school meal can increase a child’s educational attainment, so it is fantastic that through National School Meals Week free meals will be provided to 350,000 children.
"From September 2014 we will provide funding for all infant school pupils to eat healthy meals during the school day. Free school meals for all infant school pupils will save parents an average of £400 a year, and make sure every child can get the nutritious lunch that will help them do well at school."
Commenting Eastleigh MP Mike Thornton said:
"Every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day.
"Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze. During the course of a year, the average family spends £400 on lunch for each child. We are determined to ease the financial burden for these families and give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and a fairer society."