NORTHUMBERLAND County Council is hoping to change perceptions by providing groups of pupils with two free school meals.
All children in Reception and Years 1 and 2 will get some food and drink without charge from Monday. This will give those who normally have a packed lunch an opportunity to sample what is on offer from their school’s kitchen.
Sausage and mash, penne bolognese or lamb tagine served with a vegetable cous cous and chocolate and beetroot sponge with custard are examples of the meals available.
Coun Robert Arckless, policy board member for children’s services, said: “The majority of parents make their decisions based on historical memories. This is not the case with schools today and a lot of what the children like is on the menu.
“It is not to be restricted to children who currently pay for their school lunch. We are hoping that this ideally will involve all parents who would want their children to benefit, whether they currently pay for a meal or bring a packed lunch.
“However, we cannot pay parents for the packed lunch they provide.”
The authority is providing the funding for the meals because a healthy diet is very important for a child’s development.
Pupils will receive nutritional benefits if they have a good hot dinner at lunchtime and other reasons for promoting school meals include the improved social skills gained when children and staff spend the lunchtime period together.
Schools are also being encouraged to play an important role in developing a positive food culture to help ensure that healthy food becomes the norm on children’s plates.