The Scottish Government today announced plans to introduce free school dinners for primary school children from 2010.
Children aged from five to seven will be eligible under the scheme, which follows a successful pilot at five local authorities (LAs) conducted between 2007 and 2008.
The pilot, which encompassed 35,000 children, saw meal uptake increase from 53% to 75% overall. Amongst those not registered for free school meals, uptake increased from 41% to 69%.
Scotland Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: "The Government has made it a priority to help children in their early years and this initiative does just that, providing every child with a free school meal in their first years at primary school."
Ministers hope the exposure to healthy foods at a young age at school will develop positive eating habits amongst children at home. Around 163,000 children will be covered by the deal and funding will have to be found from the £34.9b LAs in Scotland are receiving from central government over the next three years.
John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: "This is a massive step forward in the campaign to ensure every child, whatever their home circumstances, gets a healthy meal at school."
England is to carry out a free school meals trial of its own, which has been cautiously welcomed by campaigners.
However, the Government last week received a pasting from Jamie Oliver who accused it of failing to adequately fund school dinner reform in England.
By Chris Druce
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