Schools prepare for free school meals

Published Monday, 12th May 2014 Healthy eating

Schools across the borough are busy preparing for the introduction of free school meals for all young children.

From September 2014, a free lunch will be available to all children in reception classes, year 1 and year 2 - regardless of family income.

Thanks to new government funding, parents could save up to £360 a year on school lunches for each child – and up to £720 if they have two children aged between four and seven years-old.

The Council's Principal Catering Officer Ron Parry said: "With the cost of living rising and more families struggling that's a lot of extra pounds which could be spent on the weekly grocery shop, money for days out or just helping with day to day living expenses.

"And there has never been a better time to introduce your child to the benefits of a school meal. The whole school approach leads to a fun, bustling dining hall where children get to enjoy a hot tasty meal with their friends.

"The Council works closely with NHS Rotherham and its Healthy Schools Team to promote healthy eating and our menus follow the nutritional standards. Parents can be sure that by having a school lunch their child is getting delicious, wholesome food and less of the junk.

"Children love to socialise with their friends at lunchtime and even the fussiest of eaters will start to try new food when they see their friends eating it."

Whatever parent childhood memories are, school food in Rotherham has come a long way and school lunches are better than ever.

A school lunch is lower in salt, sugar and higher in nutrients than the average packed lunch so parents can be sure their children are having a nutritionally balanced meal.

Schools follow strict national standards which mean they offer at least two portions of fruit and vegetables every day, salt is kept to the absolute minimum and food is free of artificial colour and flavourings.

Having a healthy, nutritious meal at lunchtime is proven to lead to better concentration in class and, in turn, improved academic attainment.

It's much easier to get vitamins and minerals into a cooked meal than a packed lunch. Only one per cent of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards that apply to school food.

Trying to put together a packed lunch which meets the same standards takes a lot of work and planning. On average, parents spend 150 hours a year preparing packed lunches for their children.

But just because school food is good for children it doesn't mean it’s bland and boring. Food is specially selected to appeal to children and school menus include lots of old family favourites.

Ron Parry added: "The schools’ catering staff are committed to producing delicious food which children love to eat; but they are much more than cooks. Our friendly teams aim to make lunchtime fun and enjoyable whilst encouraging children to talk about the food they are eating and try out new things.

"Schools also work with dieticians and school nurses to accommodate children who need medically prescribed diets so they can still eat with their friends."

In most schools, lunches can be taken week by week, meaning that parents and children can try school lunches to see whether it works for them.

Although meals in reception and years 1 and 2 are free, parents and carers on low incomes or receiving certain benefits are encouraged to continue to submit claims for the old style free meals. For each eligible child, the child’s school will receive additional funding in the form of the Pupil Premium grant, to support children and raise attainment.

For more information visit the school meals webpages.

Visit the school meals webpages