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 and nutritional school lunch has never been so important.

Childhood obesity is one of our greatest public health challenges.

Overweight and obese children face many health risks including diabetes and asthma and these risks increase as they enter adulthood.

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 and effective way to improve children’s diets.

What we eat in childhood affects what we eat as adults and providing each child with a free healthy school lunch offers the opportunity to halt the rising tide of obesity and ill health.

UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Professor Terence Stephenson, chairman, UK AMRC; Faculty of Public Health, President: John Ashton; Royal College of General Practitioners, chair 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.