There are currently around 11,000 school meals served to pupils daily in St Helens, this is likely to increase by an additional 2,700 with the introduction of the Universal Infant Free School Meals to all Key stage one pupils – the government’s initiative that entitles every infant school aged child to a free school lunch.
So, if your child is in reception, year 1 or 2 in September you will no longer have to pay for their school meal or worry about what to put in their packed lunch.
All children in these age groups will receive a nutritious meal every lunchtime.
This is great news for children and families and the health benefits of giving our children a nutritious lunch every day are clear.
We know that when children eat better they do better. A nutritious school lunch is a big step towards making sure children grow up fit and healthy and achieve their full potential at school.
Firstly families will save both money, approximately £400 a year, and time. Without the cost of paying for a school meal or making expensive packed lunches.
Secondly, the two-course menu on offer in September will meet the school food standards and nutritional guidelines currently in place providing pupils with healthy balanced meals.
Low fat milk, and a separate salad bar is also available daily as an addition to encourage pupils to eat more fruit and vegetables.
The new School Food Standards due to become legislation in January 2015 will be met by St Helen’s Council’s school meals service on introduction of the Winter menu in November 2014.
St Helen’s School Nutrition Action Group (SNAG), which includes representatives from the School Meals Service, Public Health, Environmental Health, Health Improvement Team, ABL Health Ltd are working together to ensure those standards are met within the school meals service and in addition improve the food culture within schools overall
Council representatives have been preparing to embrace the additional provision of meals by improving kitchen and dining facilities at schools throughout the Borough.
And last but not least, it’s been shown when children eat a healthy, nutritious lunch their concentration and learning is better in the afternoon. It also has the added benefit of teaching children more about social interaction and encouraging them to try new and exciting foods.
For those parents who have children with specific food allergies, intolerances or cultural needs there might be some concern. Simply contact your child’s school to make them aware of your child’s needs to discuss how your child can enjoy a school meal along with their friends.
Look out for the school meals ‘fun flag’ distributed to all KS1 children during the first week.
Benefits for your child’s school
There is a difference between Universal Infant Free School Meal and a Free School Meal provided under the benefit’s system.
It is important to apply for your child’s free school meal, from Reception to Year 6 – as schools can claim what is called a Pupil Premium per child of £1,300 which helps boost your child’s school’s income and therefore their resources.