Poverty means free meals for one in five

The number of pupils entitled to free meals rose steadily over the past six years, a Scottish Office statistical bulletin on school meals and milk has confirmed, reflecting the growth in family poverty.

A total of 160,000 pupils, one in five, are currently eligible to claim free meals, 22.8 per cent in primary and 16.6 per cent in secondary. In 1991, the figures were 19.6 per cent and 13.6 per cent respectively.

The figures, the first to allocate figures to the 32 single-tier councils, reveal Glasgow to have the highest entitlement at 41.9 per cent of its 89,000 pupils.

Next highest is West Dunbartonshire (28.5 per cent), followed by North Ayrshire (26.6 per cent), Inverclyde (25.8 per cent), North Lanarkshire (24.1 per cent), Edinburgh (23.9 per cent), Dundee (22.6 per cent) and Renfrewshire (21.6 per cent).

South Lanarkshire hits the national average of 20 per cent. Elsewhere, the affluent north-east is reflected by the 11.8 per cent return for Aberdeen. Scottish Borders has the lowest number on free meals at 5.5 per cent, followed by Aberdeenshire at 5.6 per cent.

The bulletin also reveals that 47 per cent of the 730,800 pupils present on census day took traditional school dinners or cafeteria-style meals. A further 21 per cent brought in food to eat and the rest made other arrangements.

Just over 87,000 pupils (12 per cent) received free school milk and a further 100,000 (14 per cent) paid for mid-morning milk.

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