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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Paul Byrne

School gives all pupils free hot lunches to fight cost of living crisis and teach lesson

A secondary school is to give all its pupils free hot lunches to help in the cost of living crisis and teach them the value of “stepping up”.

And pupils have given a warm welcome to the meal deal.

The pilot scheme kicks off in the New Year, with funding in place until the end of March.

It is hoped businesses and the local community will back the idea with finance so it can continue.

Rudheath Senior Academy will also serve free breakfast and snacks during the day.

Headteacher James Kerfoot said: “There is an awful lot of bad news out there at the moment. There is a lot hardship, there is energy bills, the cost of living crisis.

“It is about us trying to help the community at this time but we think we will get some real benefits as well.

“We have got a long term vision of trying to create caring and compassionate young people who go out and make their mark on the world.”

Pupils (L to R): Jade Keen, 14, Jakub Witcher, 12, Harrison McHugh, 15, Morgan Downey, 16 and Mihai Tudose, 15 (Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Pupils will eat their meals with teachers and Mr Kerfoot added: “The idea is to provide a warming home-cooked meal for everyone, including staff, to sit and enjoy together.”

The scheme will cost an estimated £30,000 a term.

“The price we already spend on food is around that, so the way we will fund it is by reducing the choice a little bit, batch cooking large meals” he said.

“We are going to ask the community if there are any local suppliers who might be able to contribute to any ingredients, which will be a big help.”

Around 35% of Rudheath’s 557 pupils are eligible for free meals, which is above the national average of 22.5%.

And it already has support from its local Co-op, which donates bread and milk to the current free breakfast club for those children.

The new initiative, believed to be the first at a secondary school in the country, will be reviewed after one term.

But the head added: “If we can continue it we will and if we can do it forever, we will.”

Headteacher James Kerfoot has a vision (Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Plastic bottles will also be banned from the school canteen in Northwich, Cheshire.

Youngsters will have juice and water on their tables and encouraged to use refillable containers.

Pupils have welcomed the move and are looking forward to the new menu,

which will include chillies, curries, roast dinners and vegetarian options.

As she tucked her dinner yesterday (FRI) Jade Keen, 14, said: “With prices rising recently a lot of families are struggling a lot more to supply food for their children so I think this will really help people.”

Jakub Wicher, 12, said: “I think it is really good for families that are not at the best stage in their life and can’t afford to supply their child with enough money for things for their packed lunch.”

Mihai Tudose, 15, said: “Financially it will help people to save money and be able to afford the obscene prices for the gas bills now.”

Harrison McHugh, 15, added: “It will also bring people together to make them feel part of the family.”

And Morgan Downey, 16, said: “It has also been done to reduce littering. We really want to be as eco-friendly as we can be and we think reducing plastic bottles is a great step forward.”

Mr Kerfoot added: “As much as anything we want to say to the children ‘when you see things going on in the world, sometimes you have got to be the people that step up and try to make a difference’.”

Steve Docking, CEO of North West Academies Trust (NWAT), which manages the school, said: “This is one of a number of ways we are trying to help ease the financial burden on our families and make school equal for all.”

Earlier this week Dixons Marchbank Primary in Bradford, West Yorks, said it was offering every pupil free lunches for the rest of the school year after it was flooded with donations following a BBC News report.

Families at told last month how they were cutting back on children’s hot lunches because of rising bills.

The school has since received almost £50,000 in donations.

Head teacher Helen Haunch said: “It restores your faith in humanity.”

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