School meals success

Almost half of Wigan's secondary school children are taking up school meals – significantly more than the national average.

And although the number of primary school children eating school lunches in Wigan is below the national average, the borough's catering bosses claim things are improving.

Figures released by the School Food Trust show that 39% of primary school pupils and 35% of high school pupils are currently taking school meals nationally.

In Wigan, these figures are at 36% for junior school pupils and 44% in secondary schools.

The Government laid out ambitious targets in 2006 to encourage 700,000 more school children to eat improved, healthier school meals in order to tackle the country's growing weight-related health problems.

Plans were made at local and national level following a high-profile healthy eating campaign by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver two years

earlier.

Metrofresh – Wigan Council's catering arm – launched its own healthy eating in-school campaign nearly two-years-ago.

Metrofresh Strategic Manager Debbie Clarke said: "We are really proud of all the hard work we've done with the school meals service so far and we believe we are offering exciting new options that are bringing more and more children back to the school dining table.

"We have worked with schools and pupils to design the healthy and innovative menus that they wanted to see.

"In terms of the figures, the national average for school meal take-up at primary school level is 39%. In Wigan we are slightly below this at 36%.

"However we have stabilised the figures and are now seeing some really encouraging signs of future improvement.

"For example, the take-up of free school meals at primary school level has risen from 74% to 80% in the first quarter of this year alone.

"Clearly we are bucking the trend here but we are not complacent and we appreciate that there is still more to do.

"We will continue to work with our schools, pupils and parents to drive these figures up.

"We would also urge anyone who is eligible for free school meals to take advantage of them, particularly during these difficult economic times."

Nationally the figures show a small rise in the take-up of school meals of less than 1%.