Government wrong on healthy school meals

School DinnersTwo North East MPs have accused the Government of getting it wrong on school food after a week which saw Health Secretary Andrew Lansley launch a war of words with Jamie Oliver.

 The leading Tory dismissed Jamie Oliver's campaign and claimed that the number of children eating healthy food had decreased in the last few years. Roberta Blackman-Woods MP and Sharon Hodgson MP used a Commons debate to hit out at plans to scrap an increase in the number of children receiving free school meals and have now turned their sights on what they claim is ‘claptrap' from the coalition. Their campaign will be boosted by the publication of a National Audit Office report that shows a continuing rise in health inequalities across the country.

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP said

"Yesterday the National Audit Office published a report which showed that health inequalities are still big and growing between the better off and the poorer in society.  Differences in diet are a substantial reason for the disparity in health.

 

"Tackling health inequalities is one very important motivation behind the campaign for universal free school meals.  We want all primary school children to be given a tasty, hot, nutritious and healthy school meal despite their background or where they live.


"We are looking forward to the evaluation of the three pilots in Durham, Newham and Wolverhampton to see what conclusions can be drawn, but we are optimistic about what they have achieved for children so far in terms of attainment, health and helping children to concentrate after lunch.

 

"It is a shame that in response to our Westminster Hall debate earlier this week that the Minister, Tim Loughton, ruled out any extension of the Free School Meals pilot which Labour had promised.

 

"The NAO report shows we have an awfully long way to go but I hope the new Government wants to continue Labour's efforts to try and tackle health inequalities.  Scrapping the Free School Meals extension will not help at all."

Sharon Hodgson MP said,


"Our campaign is all about getting kids to eat better, healthier food.  Jamie Oliver has been marvellous at raising this issue and getting the Government to change the way they think about providing meals for primary school children.


"We are extremely disappointed that Andrew Lansley has dismissed all that good work out of hand without coming up with a single proposal of his own to try and encourage healthy eating in schools.  The only announcement they've made is to scrap the free school meals pilot extension.

 

"As far as I can see the Government is clearly not committed to encouraging healthy eating in our schools, but Roberta and I will continue to fight for the scheme which we believe will help tackle health inequalities, could improve attainment and concentration levels and support local economies through local sourcing."

 Issued by the offices of Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP and Sharon Hodgson MP