LACA chair defends plans for free school meals for infants
11/12/2013 - 15:22

LACA chair Anne Bull has spoken up plans to offer all infant schoolchildren free school meals from September, following a sceptical reaction from head teachers as reported in an article in the Guardian newspaper.

Schools have a crucial role to play in keeping our young children well-nourished and able to fully participate in their studies (Is Nick Clegg’s free school meals idea turning into a dog’s dinner, Guardian 10 December). Free school meals are an important way of achieving this aim together with improving nutrition and raising the academic achievement of the poorest children.
Of course there are challenges facing schools getting ready for the roll-out of free school meals for infants in September 2014. Yet, as school caterers and councils, such as those in Islington and Southwark, will inform you, those challenges can be met.  Schools are working hard with parents and staff to improve school meals whilst caterers and government are willing partners to improve standards and take up.  The debate over school food has transformed since 2005 /06 with the implementation of food and nutrient standards.
Head teachers and School Leaders play a vital role in the education and food culture in school. The lessons of the School Food Plan are that success comes from taking a ‘whole school approach’ for food, integrating food into the life of the school, treating the dining room as a hub for activity where children and staff eat together; and recognising the important role of school cooks.  
The challenges of getting this right by September next year may on the face of it seem daunting. However, by working together with the cooks/chefs and school caterers the school team will be able to work through and find solutions to the challenges.
However, what we must not lose sight of is the benefits it will bring for families and the children in schools.