The Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) programme has reached 85% of all infants in England, according to official Government figures.

1.3 million more children are now eating a healthy lunch since the UIFSM policy launched last September.

In its first three months, a total of 1,640,530 children now benefit froma free school meal at lunchtime.

Schools Minister David Laws said: “Free school meals save parents money and ensure children are focused andable to concentrate throughout the day. Now we want to encourage more schools

to focus on quality, and continue building on the huge steps we have already made since September.”

Getting schools ready to be able to offer IFSM has involved a huge amount of hard work on the part of school catering teams, many of whom have had to install new kitchens, expand dining halls and undertake staff training to ensure they were ready to implement the various recommendations of the School Food Plan, as well as the new School Food Standards, which came into force in January.

Carieanne Bishop, Lead Association for Catering in Education (LACA) chair, applauded the hard work: “While it is true that the entire school food industry faced a challenge to get ready for UIFSM

last summer, the combination of planning, ingenuity and hard work from all involved meant that schools were ready and the policy was delivered with huge success.

Caterers up and down the country tackled the challenge head on and exceeded all expectations in their performance, allowing us to reach a point where over a million more children are now receiving a nutritious, free lunch every day they are at school.”

Meanwhile free school meals are now being served in Scotland to all primary year one to three pupils, following the Scottish Government’s expanded free schools meals policy. The measure – implemented from January – benefits an additional 135,000 pupils across Scotland, saving families of every eligible child at least £330 a year.

The Scottish Government is providing revenue funding of £70.5million over two years to deliver the commitment, supported with total additional capital funding of all 32 local councils in Scotland of £24.8million.