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Free school meals for children under seven welcomed in East Lancashire
FREE school meals for all will help East Lancashire’s ‘proudest’ families, according to a foodbank boss.
Government plans to give a free school meal to all primary children aged under seven were welcomed by both local union leaders and charities.
Ros Duerden from Blackburn Foodbank said there was a chronic problem with ‘proud’ families who did not access free school meals .
She said: “I think it is a fabulous idea because it will reduce the stigma of only some children getting a free school meal.
“Children don’t like to be different. I also know there are lots of working families who aren’t accessing our support because of pride issues.
“We are putting a lot of thought into how we encourage these people to come to us. This will be a great boost to them to get the help they need but still be the same as everybody else.
“Knowing the children will get a meal at school relieves a massive burden for some families.
“We fed 24 families over the summer which the schools had identified as at risk of struggling without school meals for a few weeks. “So the problem is out there.”
More than £25,000 of food parcels are handed out to hungry families each year across East Lancashire.
Charities such as Magic Breakfast, which was set up in 2003, also deliver morning meals to East Lancashire schools where 50 per cent or more of pupils receive free school meals.
Simon Jones, NUT Blackburn with Darwen secretary and national executive member, said it was a move in the right direction.
“However he said children would still be hungry when they turned eight.
He said: “The NUT welcomes the announcement on free school meals for infant pupils but remains committed to the ambition of universal free school meals for all primary school pupils.
“Children do not stop being hungry at seven years of age. The health benefits of eating a nutritious lunchtime meal cannot be overestimated. Teachers are well aware of the impact on children’s concentration and behaviour.
“With ever increasing rates of child poverty and childhood obesity free school meals will not only bring about clear health and education benefits, but will help support low income working parents and help to tackle child poverty.”
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