Industry leaders have welcomed plans to introduce free school meals for primary schools but have urged the Government to spend more money on ingredients to ensure children are eating healthily.
The plan, announced earlier this week by Health Secretary Alan Johnson and Schools Secretary Ed Balls, is part of a government drive to cut obesity and get young people eating more healthily.
Local authorities are being invited to bid to take part in a two-year £20m pilot programme which will look at the health benefits of the free meals scheme.
The Food for Life Partnership – a network of schools and communities in England led by the Soil Association – said the plan was a step in the right direction but called on the government to increase the average ingredient spend per primary school pupil from 57p currently to £1.
Jeanette Orrey, school meals policy advisor to the Food for Life Partnership, said: “I'm all for free school meals, but my plea to the Government is to first make sure schools have adequate dining facilities and overworked school catering staff have the hours and capacity within the kitchen to cope free school meals to all.
“The quality of the food and the dining experience must not be jeopardised in a rush to universal free school meals.”
The organisation is also campaigning for schools to be paid more hours to prepare fresh food and for every pupil up to Key Stage 3 to be given at least 12 hours of cooking lessons each year by 2011.
For more on school meals see our dedicated page
By Nick Huber
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