63 pre-school children from the lowest income Bath families received a free, nutritious hot lunch each day at nursery thanks to a grant for £2,400 through us.
Pre-schoolers from low income families are not entitled to free school meals. Every year First Steps, a Bath-based organisation providing services in some of the most deprived areas of Bath including Twerton, Southdown and Weston Village, fundraise to offer children free hot meals. The total cost last year of this project was £10,390.20. The project benefits children from families who would qualify for free school meals, but the statutory free meal scheme doesn’t apply to pre-school children.
The free meals make a difference by ensuring that children have a hot meal, eat with their peers and try different foods. This helps develop healthy eating patterns and an understanding of different food groups.
First Steps plan to continue this project. The numbers they fund is growing year on year and the Governments’ new initiative to expand the number of hours of ‘free’ childcare will mean that more children from low-income groups will be entitled to more meals as they will be at nursery every day as opposed to three days a week.
Roz Lambert from First Steps said: “We have funded free meals for children from low income families for many years, we are confident that the project succeeds because we can see the progress that children make in their development.
“This project is about prevention, working with children who are at risk of not making good progress in their development in time for a successful transition to primary school.”
Comments from parents and carers include:
· “I would not be able to afford meals if it wasn’t for the free meals.”
· “It’s helped my daughter to eat a bigger variety of foods and we haven’t had to worry about the extra cost.”
· “Free meal offer is great for us, as money is tight.”
· “My child sometimes doesn’t eat a lot at home, but will at nursery so it’s good as I know he’s eaten.”
· “It has really helped me out being on a low income and support my family home as well.”