Stephen Timms, the Member of Parliament for East Ham, has welcomed today’s announcement that Newham is to provide universal Free School Meals to all primary school children from September 2009 as part of a two-year Government pilot.

The pilot will investigate the health benefits of providing free school meals.  It will assess the impact of the scheme on levels of obesity, eating habits at home, behaviour and academic performance at school, school standards, and on general health and wellbeing.

Local authorities were invited to take part in the scheme and, along with Newham, Durham and Wolverhampton have also been selected to run similar pilots.  The scheme has been made possible by £20 million of funding from the Department for Children, School and Families and from the Department of Health, and this money is being matched by the successful local authorities.

Stephen Timms said: "I am delighted that Newham has been successful in its bid to take part in this pilot.  With the Olympics coming to Newham in 2012, I know that many young people across the borough have been trying to live more active lives and to get involved in sport.  This announcement is not only good for children’s health, but I hope it will also be found to have a positive effect on attainment levels and behaviour among local school children."

Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said: "We want to support all families, children and young people to make healthy choices and lead as healthy a life as possible. These pilots will provide us with important information on the impact of having a free, healthy, hot meal each day and enable us to see whether it does improve behaviour, school results and healthy eating at home."

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "All parents want to give their children the best possible start in life, and improving access to healthy food in schools is one way we can help.  Poor diet in childhood can lead to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type two diabetes in later life – issues being tackled by our Change4Life campaign and pilots such as these.  I look forward to seeing the results and congratulate the winning parties."

AuthorStephen Timms