There is no such thing as a free school lunch, but there should be

29th September 2006 at 01:00
The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Bill has certain features that need careful scrutiny. In particular, there is a clause that forbids the provision of a free school lunch for all children in any local authority.

While it gives local authorities the power to provide food free of charge at any other time of the day, it explicitly says the same authorities must charge pupils, who are not in exempt categories, for their midday meal.

As a member of the free school meals campaign, I support Frances Curran's Free School Meals (Scotland) Bill. This is the most positive way to tackle obesity in young children, to overcome the stigma attached to those few children who are entitled to free school meals, and to address some of the most obvious aspects of poverty.

But the section of the bill which inhibits the power of local authorities is an affront to democracy, insofar as it would deny debate on this issue among local councillors. It flies in the face of the many individuals and organisations who have responded positively to the Free Schools Meals Bill.

There is a world of difference between asking MSPs to vote on a bill that would provide all primary school children with a free meal, and inserting a clause that would deny this right into a bill that purports to promote the health of our young people.

Jim Towers

Cruden Bay

Aberdeenshire

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