MORE Hartlepool youngsters are to receive free school meals after the Government announced almost £250,000 funding for the town.
From September next year, all state school children in reception and school years 1 and 2 will be able to sit down to a free dinner.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday announced the £6m Government funding for the North-East.
Of that, Hartlepool Borough Council is to receive £242,366 and was welcomed by a senior councillor as “terrific”.
Councillor Chris Simmons, chairman of the council’s children’s services committee, said: “This is terrific.
“If I had my way every child would receive a free school meal. I think it is good for children to have the opportunity of a balanced diet and have at least one meal a day.
“I welcome any money that helps us to help our youngsters.”
Nick Clegg says the funding will save parents about £400 a year.
The funding will also help schools to improve their kitchen and dining facilities where necessary.
Mr Clegg said: “Making free school meals available for infants in the North-East means children won’t miss out on getting a healthy meal during the day. This is good for their health and their studies.
“We want to do all we can to help ease the pressure on household budgets and free school meals can help put money back in the pockets of these families.”
Evidence also shows that children who get a free school dinner do better and are more likely to eat vegetables instead of fatty snacks like crisps.
It is in addition to £40m of Government cash for the North-East to provide early years childcare,
The money will help councils to provide 15 hours a week of free childcare for 40 per cent of two-year-olds from lower income households September next year.
Hartlepool is to receive £400,000 towards the childcare.
Councils are urged to use the money to make the best use of their nurseries and childminders from 8am-6pm to fit with the demands of modern life.
Coun Simmons added: “We welcome any support that will help families living in difficult circumstances. This will help us to beef up our provision.”
l Mail view: Page 8