WE ARE just days away from the start of the new term and local authorities say the free school meals initiative is ready to go.
The Department for Education has said that parents across the county of Hampshire will save £15.9m a year on school lunches while parents in Portsmouth will save £2.2m a year – £400 per year per child.
The initiative, launched by the government, will see children aged between four and seven getting a free meal.
Portsmouth City Council spent an extra £125,000 on top of a government grant of £488,000 to upgrade equipment and modify school halls. Each child will have at least two different meal options.
Councillor Neill Young, cabinet member for children and education at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘We have done a lot of work in the city.
‘This is to ensure that every child gets a good balanced meal in the middle of the day.
‘We have done a lot of work to ensure that it will be ready.
‘It can only be a good thing for parents and hopefully it will help to educate children about a nutritious diet as well.
‘There is going to be some pressure on schools because a lot of the buildings are Victorian.
‘We will have to look at ways to ensure we get all the children through the dining halls because some of them aren’t big enough.’
Councillor Peter Edgar, executive member for education at Hampshire County Council, said: ‘The council maintains around 100 infant and primary schools in Fareham, Gosport and Havant, all of which will be serving up a hot school meal to every child who wants one in Reception year through to Year 2 from September.
‘The council’s additional £3m investment to meet the government shortfall to upgrade kitchen capacity has made this possible.
‘Equal recognition must be given to the huge amount of planning, preparation and delivery work undertaken within a short timescale, with children’s services working in partnership with the council’s property services and schools to meet the enormous challenge.
‘I know from experience that children reap huge benefits from enjoying a hot school meal at lunchtime, both nutritionally and from a learning perspective too.
‘Nourished and with energy levels replenished, children are able to maintain their concentration and have the stamina to get them through the rest of the school day.’
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