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Chew on this

(Photograph) - Even pupils entitled to free school meals at Cochrane Castle Primary in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, can sometimes be seen with packed lunches. Yet headteacher Kate Clark does not perceive any stigma, pointing out that those pupils are in a majority of 62 per cent (making the school a potential beneficiary of the Scottish Executive's free meals project).

The menu operates on a two-week cycle, so when a packed lunch does appear it is usually because a pupil simply does not like the sound of the choices that day.

School meals have become more popular as staff have increasingly encouraged and raised awareness of how to eat healthily. Fried items have fallen off the menu, while there is water constantly available in classrooms and plentiful free fruit to munch on.

The school is one of the 37 per cent in Scotland with a breakfast club, which is open to all pupils and encourages eating as a social event. "We want them to sit and chat to each other, to enjoy each other's company, and have a different experience from other times when meals might be in front of the telly," said Ms Clark.

At break time, snacks are available for a fraction of the price of a chocolate bar: toast costs 10p, milk is 10p, while soup is 20p. That toast and soup are available at all is thanks largely to the influence exerted by pupils through the schools nutrition action group (SNAG), formed with neighbouring St David's Primary.

Also on SNAG are health professionals and teachers as well as parents who, Ms Clark believes, are crucial to the success of any healthy eating scheme.

She hopes the Scottish Executive's latest plan will be accompanied by efforts to get the message through to parents.

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