GLOUCESTER Conservative candidate Richard Graham is being challenged to say whether he backs his leader Theresa May’s plans to scrap free school lunches.
Jeremy Hilton – his Liberal Democrat opponent in the General Election on June 8 – is challenging Mr Graham to say whether he will vote to take away lunches from hard-pressed families should he be re-elected to Parliament.
Mrs May’s plan to scrap free school lunches could hit children’s health by depriving hundreds of thousands of pupils of their five-a-day, according to the Liberal Democrats.
Unlike school lunches, there are no nutritional guidelines or minimum portions for breakfasts.
This means while pupils currently get at least two to three of their five a day with free lunches, with free breakfasts they could potentially get none.
Current standards would allow school breakfasts to consist mainly of processed breakfast cereals, toast with sweetened spreads, and there would be no limit on the total amount of sugar children can consume.
Mr Hilton, a well-known local councillor in Gloucester, is the main challenger to Mr Graham, who is seeking re-election as city MP.
In May’s county council elections, the Liberal Democrats came second in total number of votes cast in Gloucester. Labour finished third.
“Theresa May’s plans would hit children’s health by depriving them of a free nutritional meal at school,” Mr Hilton said.
“This is particularly short-sighted when we are struggling with soaring levels of childhood obesity.
“The Liberal Democrats will protect free school lunches for infants and ensure all primary school children can get a healthy, free lunch a day.
“The Liberal Democrat manifesto commits to extending free school meals to all children in primary education. We will also promote school breakfast clubs.
“Richard Graham must make it clear whether he will vote in the House of Commons to take away lunches from hard-pressed families or stand up to Theresa May for the sake of the education and good health of our children.
“Theresa May should take her inspiration from Jamie Oliver not Oliver Twist.”
NHS Digital figures from November 2016 show over a fifth of reception children were overweight or obese. In Year 6 over a third of children were overweight or obese.