Scottish Government introduces scheme to provide free meals to students

Posted by James Ferre on 3rd October 2008

All school pupils in grades one to three (P1 – P3) in Scotland are to be entitled to free school meals following successful pilot schemes.

The move is designed to improve the nutritious content of foods eaten by young children.

Plans for a national roll out were announced overnight after pilot schemes ran across five local authorities and 35,000 children between October 2007 and June 2008. Uptake of meals among these students rose from 53 per cent to 75 per cent. Within the target group of pupils not registered for free school meals, uptake increased from 41 per cent to 69 per cent.

by  and Children and Early Years Minister Adam Ingram

“The Concordat between the Scottish Government and COSLA stated that if the evaluation of the trials were positive legislation would be introduced to allow extension of the nutritious free school meals to all children in P1 to P3,” Education Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, said. “The pilot was a success with pupils, parents and schools and I have therefore introduced an Order to the Scottish Parliament today which will allow all local authorities to provide free school meals (FSM) for P1 to P3 pupils. This Government has made it a priority to help children in their early years and this initiative does just that, providing every child with a free school meal in their first years at primary school.”

The evaluation of the trial aimed to investigate practical issues and to assess early indications of health and other benefits. The research found:

* The trial resulted in significantly increased uptake of school meals.
* Uptake also increased slightly among P1-P3 pupils who were previously FSM registered (from 89 per cent to 94 per cent) and among P4-P7 pupils (from 47 per cent to 50 per cent)
* Parents, teachers, local authority staff and catering staff were very positive about the provision of FSM for P1-P3 pupils
* Some pupils taking part in the trial were trying and enjoying new foods and some were asking for new foods at home, including healthier options

The Government claims the decision is the latest in the campaign to help develop children’s tastes for healthy, wholesome and nutritious food by taking an early intervention approach to changing their eating habits, both at school and in the home.

New guidance was recently published to help school catering staff produce healthy meals. In August, all primary schools implemented new nutritional guidelines for the food and drink served and sold on site. Secondary schools will be following suit next August.

The Scottish Government is also developing the first-ever cross-cutting National Food and Drink Policy for Scotland, designed to boost the industry, support healthier and more environmentally sustainable choices and enhance Scotland’s reputation as a land of quality food and drink.