Free school meals have been made available to all primary school children in two areas of England under a new £40m, two-year trial.
Pupils in County Durham and Newham in London will take part in the scheme, which aims to see if behaviour, health and academic standards improve, according to the BBC.
If the trial is successful, free school meals could be made available nationwide, a proposal backed by education unions. It has been estimated it would cost the government £1b annually to action.
The School Food Trust, which has been charged by the government with improving school meals. Last week it announced that one in five parents on a low income are not checking to see if they are entitled to free school meals worth £1,140 a year.
Ed Balls, secretary of state for children, school and families, said: "I encourage all families who are entitled to a free school meal to claim this valuable support. For those who are not eligible, school meals are still a great deal and give parents good value for money.
"We know from recent research by the School Food Trust that parents with two children could save over £1,000 in a school year if they chose school meals - as well as the reassurance that their children are eating good quality, healthy food."
New nutrient-based standards for school lunches have now come into effect for secondary schools in England. The standards have been obligatory in primary schools for a year.
The Trust emphasised the importance of the standards because school lunch is the main meal of the day for many pupil. This notion is supported by research published by Kellogg's which found that children spend £646m on junk-food breakfasts each year.
Children in the first three years of primary school in Scotland are to be entitled to free school meals from August 2010, following pilots in five areas.
By Janie Stamford
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