Thousands of disadvantaged children in the East Midlands will from this week be entitled to a free school meal for the first time, according to research by The Children’s Society.
An analysis of official statistics shows that almost 130,000 children across the region, aged from four to seven, will benefit from the Government’s expansion of free school meals to all infants from the start of the school year.
Of these, some 11,600 are currently living in poverty and are likely to see the greatest benefit from the changes.
Under the new policy, which was first announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last September, a free school meal is being offered to all school children in reception, year one and year two.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “The extension of free school meals to all infants in the East Midlands is a positive step forward in the fight against child poverty, and shows that the Government recognises the hardship that thousands of families are facing.
“But for poor youngsters older than seven, nothing has changed. That’s why it is vital that ministers build on this to make sure that every child in poverty is guaranteed a free school meal, whatever their age.”
Nationally, the landmark move will make free school meals available to about 1.5 million more children than before – including 160,000 more children living in poverty.