Launch of free school meals for 21,000 pupils in Northamptonshire

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Thousands of children across Northamptonshire will be entitled to a free school meal for the first time from this week.

It is estimated that 21,422 children in reception, year one and year two will get a free school meal in Northamptonshire under the new Government scheme which comes into force today (Tuesday).

Out of those children it’s estimated that 1,239 youngsters are living in poverty in Northamptonshire.

An analysis of official statistics by The Children’s Society shows that almost 130,000 children across the East Midlands, 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.

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.

These children will be able to rely on at least one nutritious meal every school day – and will help hard-pressed families across the country in the face of rising costs and food prices.

The Children’s Society, through its Fair and Square campaign, campaigned for free school meals and believes it should be available to every children in poverty whatever their age.

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.”