Blackpool’s free breakfast scheme for youngsters could be adding to the town’s weight problem, a councillor has claimed.
Tory councillor Danny Scott said children could be helping themselves to three meals every morning, a statement disputed by the resort’s health boss Amy Cross.
It comes after The Gazette revealed earlier this year how more than a third of 11 year olds in Blackpool are now classed as overweight or obese.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Resilient Communities Scrutiny Committee, Coun Scott said: “Some children - maybe due to lack of supervision, with one teacher for 30 in a class - could be having up to three breakfasts,” he said. “What [the schools] are finding now is that they’re going to have a weight problem.”
Blackpool introduced free school breakfasts for every primary school pupil in January 2013 amid concerns children were turning up to school with empty stomachs – affecting both their health and ability to learn.
The scheme has faced Conservative criticism since then, with local Tory leader Tony Williams calling for it to be scrapped in the face of heavy council cuts.
But Coun Cross dismissed the idea that children are gorging, either by eating multiple breakfasts in school, or by eating one before they leave home and another when they get to class.
She said: “Parent’s aren’t giving [their children] a full breakfast and then sending them off to school and they’re eating another full breakfast. That’s just not happening.
“Parents are saying to their children, ‘You can have a banana and a yoghurt before you go, but we’re not going to give you any more than that’, knowing that [they] are going to get something in school.
“We still know a lot of children don’t get breakfast at home.”
After Coun Scott said he admired her ‘optimism about children being given a banana or yoghurt’ before school, Coun Cross replied: “What I’m saying is they’re giving them a minimal amount.”
The scheme is estimated to cost £1.3m a year to run, while 1.49 million meals were given out at the resort’s 33 schools last year, consisting of malt loaf, bagels, fruit, raisins, yoghurt, smoothies, toast, and cereal.
A university-led review of the project, examining if it offers value for money, is set to be completed next year.