Free school meals for all primary children

ALL primary children in Barking and Dagenham could be given free school meals this September under a pioneering drive to tackle the obesity epidemic and recession. Nearly �15million of government cash could be injected to give free lunches to 17,280 child

ALL primary children in Barking and Dagenham could be given free school meals this September under a pioneering drive to tackle the obesity epidemic and recession.

Nearly �15million of government cash could be injected to give free lunches to 17,280 children, for two academic years, until July 2011.

Council chiefs would team up with health bosses to deliver the meals as figures revealed Barking and Dagenham has the third highest primary school obesity problem in the country, with 14.4 per cent of reception children overweight in 2007.

The project could leave council bosses with a �1.3million-�5million gap to fill, but NHS Barking and Dagenham will be expected to help plug it.


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Just a quarter of primary pupils are entitled to the free school meals - given to families on benefits - and just half take them.

The council will tomorrow (Friday) submit a bid to take part in one of the three government pilots to be launched in September.

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A Barking and Dagenham executive report on the school meals said: "This bid is a tremendous opportunity to promote healthy lifestyles for young people and should be seen as a wider healthy initiatives campaign that includes free swimming, free fruit etc.

"In the current economic climate, this initiative is also a recession alleviation measure.

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