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MSP Briefing: Free School Lunches Trial
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MSP Briefing: Free School Lunches Trial

October 2007

Introduction

This briefing sets out UNISON Scotland's position on the Provision of School Lunches (Disapplication of the Requirement to Charge) (Scotland) Order 2007, which is to be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 3 October 2007.

Background

UNISON Scotland has long supported campaigns for universal free school meals. A large number of UNISON members are involved in delivering school meal services and participate in a number of successful initiatives promoting nutritional standards and increased take up of school meals, particularly in the Hungry for Success and other related initiatives.

We have previously called for universal provision on the grounds that health statistics and the generally poor diet in Scotland demonstrate the need for urgent and innovative action on children's eating habits. This has been reinforced by recent research putting Scotland second only to the USA in obesity statistics.

Trials

UNISON welcomes these trials and in fact had proposed legislation to allow pilot projects such as these to go ahead. In our submission and oral evidence on the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Bill we highlighted the good work which was carried out in Hull in providing free school meals to all primary school children. This increased take up of school meals and was seen around the world as a successful scheme. One of the reasons for providing the free meals to all children is to reduce the stigma of means assessed provision. Also some families on benefits are in the 'poverty trap' of just missing out on qualifying for free meals.

These trials in five council areas (East Ayrshire, Fife, Glasgow, Scottish Borders and West Dunbartonshire) will provide free lunches for all Primary 1 Primary 3 pupils. We welcome the fact it is envisaged that if the trials prove a success, the scheme will be rolled out nationwide.

Overall UNISON is calling for a 'Food for Good' programme of action, with schools a key component. This would involve nutritional standards being set for all public sector provision of food, with regulators responsible for ensuring compliance. This would cover schools, hospitals, prisons, care homes etc. and would build on the work already underway in schools and in the health service. UNISON SCOTLAND'S 'Food for Good' Charter, launched in 2003, urged targets on the NHS for sourcing organic and fair trade food as well as dealing with concerns about privatisation of hospital catering and the impact on the quality of food available to patients.

Our submission to the Communities Committee on the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Bill is at www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/schoolnutrition.html

Conclusion

UNISON believes that it is essential for the health of our children and future generations that urgent action is taken to address obesity and to promote healthy eating. This Instrument is an important step in doing that and in gathering information about what we expect to be the proven benefits. We urge MSPs to support these trials.

For further information contact:

Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser d.watson@unison.co.uk Tel. 07958 122409

 

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Further Information


Dave Watson -
d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572