Government sends memo to headteachers reminding them of benefits of school dinners - days after opting out of helping hungry children

A government memo has been sent to headteachers reminding them of their obligations to provide school meals.

Saturday, 24th October 2020, 6:00 am

It says that schools should be providing healthy and nutritious hot meals at all relevant times of day despite the struggles the school maybe experiencing as a result of meeting coronavirus regulations.

Undersigned by Vicky Ford MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families and Jo Churchill MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care - it comes less than 48 hours after a vote in the House of Commons saw the majority of Conservative MPs vote against a motion from the Labour Party to extend the free school meals scheme over the half term and Christmas school holidays.

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Schools have been reminded of the importance of healthy meals as the government votes against helping hungry children during school holidays.

It reads: "Given what we know about the links between living with obesity in childhood and adulthood it has never been more important to ensure that children are eating healthy and nutritious meals at school and, in doing so, are building an understanding of the importance of healthy choices that supports their development now and in the future.

"We already have robust School Food Standards set in legislation which require school caterers to serve healthy and nutritious food and drinks which make sure children get the energy and nutrition they need across the school day."

It adds: "I and the Minister for Public Health, Prevention and Primary Care would encourage schools to be vigilant in ensuring the current food standards are met and that all standards are applied at the relevant time of day."

However, over the last couple of days Leeds City Council and local businesses have been joining forces to make sure there is at least some provision to feed children during the school holidays who would usually be reliant on free school dinners.

Around 25,000 children in the city benefit from school meals but due to the impact of coronavirus, lockdown, furlough and businesses having to close and make people redundant - that figure has increased by 2,500 in the last few months.

The Healthy Holidays programme, delivered through a partnership with Leeds City Council and Leeds Community Foundation, will spend what money it has left in the pot to target the areas where it is needed most this half term and a flurry of businesses in the city are offering to help hungry families out from butchers handing out sandwiches to pubs saying kids can eat free.

The letter from the Department for Education goes on to say that November 9 to 13 sees National School Meals week "to highlight the importance and benefit" of school meals and encourages schools to introduce family dining to help instill good eating habits.