Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez took a break from the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow to visit a primary school ahead of the Government announcement on free school meals today.
The Lib Dem leader announced a new £600 million scheme giving all infant school children in England a free school meal from September 2014.
The measure is aimed at helping financially-stretched families but will also have education and health benefits, Mr Clegg said.
The authors of the original School Food Plan which called for the introduction of free school meals have praised the Government for introducing free meals for infant school children in England.
Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, who co-authored the Government-commissioned review into school meals, tweeted their pride at the new policy:
proud of our country tonight. Universal Free School meals for the first three years of primary school. #schoolfoodplan well done the govt
Universal free school meals for reception, year 1, and year 2. From next september. WOWSER. #schoolfood
Disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England will also be eligible for free school meals from next September.
A leading children's charity has welcomed the Government's plans to give all infant school children in England free school meals, saying it will "make a real difference for children" and financially stretched families.
The Chief Executive at 4Children, Anne Longfield OBE, said:
This is a welcome announcement which is likely to be popular with parents and make a real difference for children. From what we have heard, it has the makings of the kind of policy that parents are looking for from all political parties, understanding the importance of nutritious healthy food and recognising the financial pressure families are under.
Regular, nutritious meals are crucial in supporting the healthy development of children. Importantly, helping in this way should provide some welcome relief to the finances of those families with young children who we know have been hit hard by the economic downturn.
The Government's plan to give every child at infant school in England a free meal will cost approximately £600 million
Disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges will also be eligible for free school meals from September 2014.
Full details on the scheme's funding will be announced in the Autumn Statement 2013, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the new policy giving all infant school children a free school meal in England was the first step in fulfilling his ambition to provide free school meals to all primary school children.
Mr Clegg said: "For the Liberal Democrats, this is a first step: my ambition is to provide free school meals for all primary school children. Another reason we want to get into Government again next time round."
The Deputy Prime Minister said free school meals would help "give every child the chance in life they deserve."
Free school meals for infant children could substantially improve academic performance, a recent report suggested.
The School Food Plan, conducted by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, found that, in pilots where all children had been given a free school dinner, students were academically months ahead of their peers elsewhere.
Between three and five per cent more children reached target levels in maths and English at Key Stage 1.
Families will save £400 a year per child as a result of the Coalition's plan to offer free school meals to all infant schoolchildren in England.
Every child at infant school in England will receive a free school meal from next September, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.
The Coalition will fund schools in England to provide every child in reception, year one and year two, from the ages of four to seven, with a hot and healthy meal at lunchtime.
Mr Clegg said the scheme would “give every child the chance in life they deserve.”