Youngsters in their first years at school are tucking in to free meals thanks to a new initiative.
The Scottish Government is giving every P1-P3 pupil the chance to have a hot meal in the middle of the day – and it doesn’t cost their parents a penny.
The expanded free school meals policy came into effect last week.
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Latest figures show that four out of five eligible youngsters in Falkirk Council schools are taking up the option.
Previously only 1000 (18 per cent) of youngsters in P1-P3 were eligible with 90 per cent of them taking advantage of the free meal.
Schools used to serve lunch to around 3000 children in this age category, but now face feeding around 5600.
Education officials admit that it does give them “significant challenges” to find the space in school kitchens to produce the additional meals, getting enough staff and equipment to make the food and having space in schools for pupils to sit down to eat.
Although the Scottish Government provided the local authority with £2.283 million to meet the costs of the meals over the next two years, hurdles to be overcome in implementing the new policy included “space availability, seating capacity, staggered lunch breaks and supervision of pupils”.
Across Scotland an additional 135,000 children are expected to benefit from the free meals with families of every eligible child saving at least £330 a year.
The new policy has been supported by organisations including Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, One Parents Families Scotland, Children in Scotland and trade unions.
Welcoming the policy change, Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said: “We all know that the early years of a child’s life are the most crucial and can shape their habits for a lifetime – so ensuring our children have access to a healthy lunch could see real improvements in Scotland’s public health in the future.”