Do square meals create well-rounded pupils?

A year-long pilot study to ascertain the effect of healthy school meals on children’s behaviour and performance is starting today.

Pupils at eight primary schools are being given free, nutritious breakfasts, lunches or snacks for the rest of the academic year while researchers analyse the children’s weight, achievement, motivation, ability to concentrate and level of illness.

The results from the schools in North Tyneside will be compared with students from ten nearby schools that will not be offering free food.

A dramatic difference in behaviour and attendance was noticed when schools in Hull decided to offer free meals to all children in an attempt to remove the stigma and improve uptake of the scheme, which is normally available only to children from poor backgrounds. But the policy was scrapped this month for cost reasons and the number of pupils having a school meal has reportedly slumped.

Under the new £250,000 scheme, the schools will serve healthy food at different times, with researchers studying the children from the start of the day. Two schools each will offer breakfast, morning snacks, lunch or morning and afternoon snacks.

Leaders of North Tyneside Council intend to introduce the most successful option into all of its primary schools from next September, as obesity affects 15 per cent of under11s in the borough. For breakfast the children can have cereal, toast and spread, a piece of fruit and orange juice or milk. The mid-morning snack choices will include a cheese-topped bun, sultana bun, date whirl, fruit and orange juice. Those having two snacks a day will have fruit and milk in the morning, with the same choice as above in the afternoon. The pupils having school lunches will eat meals such as low-fat sausage in onion gravy with parsley potatoes, plus vegetables or salad and pudding or fresh fruit.

Source - Times

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