A WIGAN Council company is at the heart of radical Government plans to ensure every infant pupil in Britain gets a free school meal.
The measure, introduced in the Autumn Statement, means £150m will be spent on improving and expanding primary school kitchen and dining facilities.
The reforms have been partly created in Wigan with the input of MetroFresh, which provides meals to thousands of school pupils across the borough, advising on the expansion through its work on the all-party parliamentary group on school food.
Council chiefs believe the reforms will mean around 3,000 more children in Wigan will receive a school meal every day and also hope providing nutritious meals to all infants until the end of year two will also help tackle childhood obesity.
Assistant director of trading Steve Cassie said: “To deliver the additional meals significant planning is required. We are setting up a steering group to involve all relevant parties, to look at all aspects of the additional meals delivery and to support schools in the delivery of the outcomes of the school food plan, linking to the curriculum using the changes to improve the health of local schoolchildren.
“We are also working with our partners in health to improve children’s health in the borough. We recognise that children need to be inspired to eat a more balanced diet.
“One way we are looking to do this is by creating a new role called a development chef, who will work closely with schools, teachers, children and the school catering team to engage children in this vital agenda.”
There is currently just one school in the borough which does not have its own kitchen, down from more than 20 just seven years ago.
The initial funding pledge of £150m announced by the Chancellor George Osborne on Thursday will be followed by a further £450m in 2014/15 and £635m in 2015/16 to fund the free lunches.
The Government believes universal free meals for infants, which will be introduced from September 2014, could save parents more than £400 per child each year.