Chancellor announces more free meals

More schoolchildren will be eligible for free school meals the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling has announced in his pre-Budget report (PRB) made yesterday (Wednesday).

Free school meals entitlement will now be extended to more primary school children with lower-income working parents who would not previously have been eligible.

The news has been welcomed by food campaigners in a move that will affect families with a household income below £16,190,

Children’s Food Campaign director Richard Watt said: “This announcement will mean more children get access to good food at school, which will improve their health, ability to learn and behaviour in the classroom. Families on low income will really welcome this extra help.”

The extension for the entitlements will be staggered, with half in September next year and the rest a year later, which will ultimately benefit around 500,000 children at a cost of £140m a year.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has described the Chancellor’s pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in his PRB as a “blow for manufacturers”.

Companies that have agreed to make environmentally friendly changes in their operations currently receive an 80% discount on their Climate Change Levy, but new measures announced will reduce that to 65% by April 2011.

Andrew Kuyk, FDF sustainability director, said: “We are surprised at the changes announced today to the Climate Change Agreements, which the Chancellor himself acknowledges are an effective way of reducing carbon emissions in industries that are high users of energy, including the food and drink manufacturing sector.

“It would appear that he plans to cut the discount available under these Agreements from 80% to 65% for all fuels from 2011. If that is indeed the case, this decision would be very unwelcome.”

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