From September, every child in the first three years of school will be able to enjoy a free healthy school lunch and we applaud the Government for their support of universal infant free school meals and the School Food Plan. With one in five children leaving primary school overweight and obese ensuring a healthy, nutritionally balanced school lunch has never been so important.

Childhood obesity is one of our greatest public health challenges – overweight and obese children face numerous health risks including diabetes and asthma. Only one per cent of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards which apply to school food and there is evidence that children who eat a healthy school lunch consume more vegetables and fewer fizzy drinks and crisps. Providing a free healthy school lunch is a simple way to improve diets.

What we eat in childhood affects what we eat as adults and providing each child with a free healthy school lunch, as part of the wider School Food Plan, offers the opportunity to transform a generation of diets and halt the rising tide of obesity and ill health.

UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Prof Terence Stephenson, Chairman, UK AMRC Faculty of Public Health, President: John Ashton Royal College of General Practitioners, Chairman Maureen Baker British Medical Association, Dr Mark Porter, Chairman Association of Directors of Public Health, President: Janet Atherton Royal Society for Public Health, President: Lord Hunt British Association of Child and Adolescent Public health, Ingrid Wolfe (co-chairman) British Association for Child Community Health, Dr Gabrielle Laing (Chairman) Whitehall, London

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