More appetite for free meals

28th October 2005 at 01:00
On the eve of the Scottish Socialists' latest bid to introduce free school meals for all primary pupils, the campaign backing MSP Frances Curran's bill has claimed unprecedented support.

Marion Davis, policy manager for the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said that its consultation on the School Meals (Scotland) Bill had received more than 350 responses, with 98 per cent in support of universal entitlement.

The bill, due to have its first reading at the end of October, limits universal entitlement to primary age children and would cost around pound;88 million to implement. The previous bill was costed at pound;187 million and covered both primary and secondary.

Ms Davis attributes the higher levels of support this time around to cost issues along with heightened awareness following Jamie Oliver's UK campaign to raise the quality of school meals.

Declarations of support include one from Ian Fraser, head of education services at East Renfrewshire Council, who states: "In a very complex society it would be beneficial for all young people to receive a nutritional, free school meal. There would be consistency in nutritional standards. There would be no need for young people to go into the community at lunchtime. The time spent in school could be more purposeful in extra-curricular activities and more pointed towards activities which lead to higher attainment."

Academics who are backing the bill include Professor Annie Anderson, director of the Centre for Public Nutrition Research at Dundee University; Professor Mike Lean, professor of human nutrition at Glasgow University; Professor Iain Crombie, public health section, Dundee University; Professor Adrian Sinfield, emeritus professor, department of social policy, Edinburgh University; Dr Carlo Morelli, department of economic studies, Dundee University.

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