Helen Flynn, PPC for Harrogate & Knaresborough, recently took time out to have lunch with infants at Hookstone Chase Primary School in Harrogate where she is Chair of the School Governors.
The visit was in advance of National School Meals Week that runs from 3-7 November across the whole country.
Helen said: This national awareness week that promotes that importance of good nutrition for school children has been running now for over 22 years, but the big difference this year is the advent of Universal Infant Free School Meals that was introduced by Government, as a Liberal Democrat initiative, in September.
This means that all infant-aged children now get a delicious and nutritious meal that helps with their development and education.
The initiative followed a two-year pilot programme operating in three local authorities (Wolverhampton, Durham and Newham) between the autumn of 2009 and summer of 2011, that extended entitlement to free school meals. The universal pilot had a significant positive impact on attainment for primary school pupils at Key Stages 1 and 2, with pupils in the pilot areas making between four and eight weeks’ more
progress than similar pupils in comparison areas.
The initiative also helps develop social skills as all pupils sit down together to enjoy a hot meal. Packed lunches tend to be packed with sugar and additives, and do not encourage children to explore new foods and tastes to extend their palate. The variety contained in daily nutritious hot school meals encourages young children to explore new foods at an early age.
Helen added: Great though this is for the children, it is also a benefit for mums and dads, as families are saving money through this initiative, especially important in these straitened times where many families are struggling.
In addition, I know as a working mum how precious time is in the morning as children are getting ready for school. Removing the burden of both the time and cost of preparing packed lunches is a great boon for families, without doubt.