Pupils set to enjoy free school meals

TUCKING IN: Councillor McPake with pupils Naomi Reagan (P3), Findlay Boyle (P1) and Abi Armstrong (P2) from St John Paul II Primary in Viewpark.
TUCKING IN: Councillor McPake with pupils Naomi Reagan (P3), Findlay Boyle (P1) and Abi Armstrong (P2) from St John Paul II Primary in Viewpark.

All pupils in primaries one to three at schools throughout the North Lanarkshire area will soon be entitled to tuck into a free school meal.

The move will see around 12,177 pupils across the area benefit as part of a national Scottish Government campaign aimed at improving children’s health and helping parents to save money.

The changes will start from January 5 next year with no eligibility criteria – all children in P1 to P3 will qualify.

Councillor Michael McPake, vice-convener of North Lanarkshire Council’s environmental services committee, said: “School meals have come on a long way since I was at school.

“All our menus are designed to give pupils a healthy start in life and follow Scottish Nutritional Guidelines.

“School meals help children develop their social skills and the fact that they are now free for younger children takes some pressure off family finances.”

North Lanarkshire operates a three-week menu cycle to ensure pupils don’t have to wait too long for their favourite dishes to become available.

The council operates cashless catering in a number of schools and a pre-order service is also available. Schools can also cater for pupils with medically prescribed diets – parents should contact the catering manager at their school to inform them of their child’s individual needs.

Environmental services convener Helen McKenna said: “Eating a nutritious lunch has been shown to help children’s concentration in class, and our menu is designed to offer healthy, balanced meals. We are constantly improving our menus and cooking methods to take account of nutritional guidance and best practice. For example, we’ve reduced the amount of salt, fat and sugar in meals, use baking, grilling and steaming to cook food, and provide free wholemeal bread to increase fibre intake.”