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.”
A spokesman for the Children's Food Trust said evidence shows that schools are offering healthier meals and children are eating more nutritious lunches since national school food standards were put in place.
The average meal is lower in fat, sugar and salt, more children are having water to drink instead of sugary drinks and the amount of fruit and veg on pupils' plates has gone up.
There's still a long way to go but the level playing field created by the standards has been key - and our studies show that when children eat a healthier lunch, they do better in the afternoons.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said if the Local Government Association has evidence of academies and free schools providing unhealthy meals to their pupils then it should be released.
Far from being paragons of nutrition, many maintained schools are not meeting food standards and are offering cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks to their pupils.
Others have said they find the standards too bureaucratic, rigid, and difficult to administer.
However, there is room for improvement across the board - that is why we have asked independent reviewers to consider the best way to help all schools offer good, well-balanced food.
Chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, David Simmonds, said the current Government strategy on healthy school meals has resulted in a "two-tier system".
Mr Simmonds said:
As champions for parents and children, councils with new public health responsibilities will want to hold all schools to account if they are ducking their moral duty to give students the best chance of living a happy and healthy life.
We now need Government to do its part by introducing an acceptable food standard that will allow councils to hold all schools to account for the nutritional quality of food they serve their pupils.
More than a million children could be eating unhealthily at lunchtime because their schools are exempt from tough food standards, council leaders have warned.
Free schools and academies that opt out of national regulations are "ducking their moral duty" to make sure school children receive healthy meals, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).
The LGA issued a fresh call to the Government to introduce a single standard that applies to all schools to ensure every pupil has access to a healthy lunch.
England's school children are being served "very small" school dinners, meaning many are left hungry, according to a survey of teachers.Read the full story ›