A £1.3 MILLION a year scheme providing free breakfasts for primary children in Blackpool has given the borough one of the lowest figures for underweight youngsters in the North West.
Normally whenever statistics about deprivation are released, the seaside borough is as bad or worse than its counterpart in Blackburn with Darwen.
Academic researchers believe that the free breakfast scheme is helping ensure that Blackpool’s primary school children are properly fed.
Now shocked Sunnyhurst Labour councillor Pete Hollings wants Blackburn with Darwen’s executive board to look at bringing the scheme into the borough.
Just 0.9 per cent of Blackpool’s 11-year-olds are classed as under-weight, only marginally worse than affluent Ribble Valley at 0.6 per cent and a stark contrast to Blackburn with Darwen’s 3.5 per cent.
Most primary schools in Blackburn with Darwen run cheap breakfast clubs for their pupils. One example is at Our Lady’s Primary School, Holmbrook Close, Ewood, which feeds more than 65 pupils with free or subsidised breakfasts with help from charity Children in Need.
Coun Hollings said: “These are shocking figures. As a council we have not considered a free breakfast scheme for all primary school pupils. Perhaps now is the time to take a look at it. I will be contacting the executive members for schools and health Dave Harling and Mohammed Khan to ask the to examine whether this would help with this problem in view of the high levels of child poverty in the borough.”
In the borough 24 per cent of children receive free school meals, with Burnley at 27 per cent having a higher figure.
Elsewhere in East Lancashire the figures are 22 per cent for Hyndburn, Rossendale 19 per cent, Pendle 18 per cent and Ribble Valley six per cent.
In Blackburn with Darwen, 17 schools had more than a third of children claiming free dinners in 2012/2013.
All Blackpool primary children are entitled to free breakfast and milk under its scheme to improve their health.
More than 11,000 breakfasts are delivered daily in 33 schools, with children choosing a drink and two items from a selection of in the main, malt loaf, bagels (plain and cinnamon) fruit, chopped fruit, raisins, yoghurt and smoothies. Some schools have toast and cereal on certain days.
The impact of the scheme has been evaluated by a team of Northumbria University experts.
Their assessment of an initial pilot resulted in the council authorising the scheme, which costs £1.3m a year from its public health budget, being approved to continue until further notice.