MORE Wigan children are tucking into school meals than ever before.
An annual national survey by the School Food Trust and the Local Authority Caterers’ Association (LACA) looks at how popular school dining halls are across the country.
The figures, published by the School Food Trust and LACA, show that an average of 44.1 per cent of children in primary schools and 37.6 per cent of pupils in secondary school opted for school meals in the 2010 to 2011 year, up from 41.4 and 35.8 per cent respectively in the previous year.
In Wigan, the figures reveal that 40.1 per cent of primary school pupils in the borough take school meals, an increase of just over two per cent.
In secondary schools 43.4 per cent of pupils have a school lunch, which is marginally higher (0.16 per cent) than figures for the previous year.
School meals in Wigan are provided by the council’s catering and cleaning organisation, Metrofresh.
Strategic manager Debbie Clarke says that Metrofresh workers are thrilled with the figures.
She said: “We have been working hard to design our menus around what children wanted.
“We have involved the children in the design of our new menus and we have also involved our school cooks.
“We are hoping to improve on these figures even further with the introduction of new cashless catering technology in more of the borough’s schools. This will also help to increase the uptake of free school meals.”
Both pupils and teachers at Our Lady Primary School, Bryn, are big fans of school meals.
Reception class pupil Lucia Strano said: “I love my school dinner and like the pasta best of all.”
And classmate Alyssia Goulding added: “I always eat my school dinner. I love it!”
Headteacher Damian Winstanley said: “We pride ourselves on giving our children the best start in life and providing great quality school meals is an important part of that – the children love them and the school has an excellent relationship with the Metrofresh team.”
Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Coun Susan Loudon, said: “Metrofresh meals are healthy, nutritionally balanced and represent great value for money. It is fantastic that more children in our borough than ever before are taking a healthy school meal at lunchtime.
“We believe that school meals are still the best option.”
School Food Trust Chairman Rob Rees said: “When children eat better, they do better - so good food at school is an investment in children’s learning and their health and I’d like to thank cooks, catering teams, lunchtime supervisors and schools in Wigan for their hard work in the last year
“If we’re going to keep school meal numbers rising across the country, we have to keep healthy school meals affordable.
“That means helping schools to grow their market, to get the best deals for food supplies and services, protect their kitchens and dining rooms and operate catering services efficiently.”