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Every pupil in Southwark will receive free school meals to tackle obesity
13/09/2011 - 23:00

Every primary school pupil in Southwark will receive free school meals as part of a drive to help combat rising levels of childhood obesity.

From this school term Southwark Council will offer one nutritious meal a day to 21,000 pupils across 70 primary schools, regardless of family income.

The scheme is expected to save a typical family with two children at primary school £700 a year.

It comes as new NHS figures show that Southwark has one of the highest levels of child obesity in the country.

Catherine McDonald, Southwark's cabinet member for children's services, said: "Our free healthy school meals programme will help tackle child obesity by ensuring that our pupils can have at least one healthy meal a day.

"It will also put hundreds of pounds a year back into parents' pockets at a time when many people are feeling the financial squeeze."

The programme is set to cost £8m over three years.

It will initially be rolled out to all reception and year one pupils this term before being extended to all primary school year groups by 2013.

Commenting on the scheme, one parent said: "Since eating the free healthy school meals my child has started asking for fruit at home."

Another said: "With the money I've saved on school meals, I've bought books for my child".

Judy Hargadon, chief executive of the Schools Food Trust, said: "We welcome Southwark's commitment to supporting every child to eat well at school so that they can reach their full potential."