Parents of ‘eligible children’ in the Ballymena and Antrim areas have been urged to apply for free school meals.
Education Minister Peter Weir made the call as the new school year rapidly approaches.
The Minister said: “One of my Department’s aims is to raise standards in education and the importance of a healthy school meal in achieving this should not be underestimated.
“There is a recognised connection between healthy eating and improved learning and a nutritious school meal contributes to a young person’s growth and development.”
The ‘Food in Schools’ policy advocates a whole school approach to ensure that only healthy food is provided in schools and that young people develop the knowledge and skills to enable them to enjoy a healthy lifestyle as they progress through life.
And the Minister continued: “Eating a nutritious school meal can improve a child’s concentration, behaviour and their ability to learn in class.
“This ultimately leads to better educational outcomes. Parents have a role to play in encouraging healthy eating and embedding a lifelong habit that will ultimately lead to improved health in adult years.”
In 2015/16, 101,063 pupils were eligible for free school meals with 82,002 (81.1%) of eligible pupils availing of the service.
Further information is available at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/nutrition-and-school-lunches