Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Free School meal pilots

These three remarkable women are all engaged in an exciting project which has the potential to affect the health of the next generation. Grace Phillip,(Islington Council) Jo Walker, (School Food Trust) and Sally Sunderland from (Newham) all spoke at the recent LACA seminar.

Jo gave the background story of the Dept of Children,Schools and Families and the Dept of Health finding some money to trial free school meals for all. £20 million has been invested by government and has been match funded by participating authorities.

The aim of the pilots is to find out if providing a nutritious tasty free school lunch will impact on
reducing obesity levels
improved behaviour and concentration in the classroom
changge of eating habits at home

It is a two year trial and will be evaluated by NatCen. The three authorities participating are London Borough of Newham, Durham and Wolverhampton (who are looking at enhanced eligibility criteria rather than free school meals for all)

Sally spoke next and described in detail the challenges her team in Newham faced.Investing in kitchen equipment,increasing staff levels, getting school staff involved were crucial in getting ready for September.

Grace described how Islington, who were not eligible for the government pilots, had gone ahead without any extra government funding.

All the speakers explained how well the trials had been recieved. The take up has been amazing. One of the more unexpected but welcome consequences has been how all the free school pilot areas theere has been an increase in secondary school uptake without any additional support or promotion. Newhan reported that their secondary school uptake has increased by 15% since they started giving away free school meals in the primaries.