A GOVERNMENT minister visited an Inverclyde school to mark the success of a scheme which is providing nutritious meals for over 3,500 local schoolchildren.

The council's school meals service recently won a bronze 'Food for Life Served Here' award from the Soil Association Scotland and Mairi Gougeon MSP came to Wemyss Bay Primary for lunch yesterday to mark the milestone in the provision of fresh, local, sustainable meals.

She joined pupils to enjoy some mince and tatties with meat sourced from McLays Foods in Glasgow, along with seasonal fruit and vegetables supplied by George Carruthers & Sons.

Also on offer was macaroni cheese, freshly prepared from scratch using Scottish milk, and homemade biscuits.

The Soil Association Scotland’s Food for Life programme has been running since 2008 to get more Scottish food onto school dinner plates and serve healthy, sustainable meals.

Inverclyde is one of 13 local authority areas to achieve the independently-assessed award.

It means local schools are serving meals made from fresh ingredients, using free-range eggs and high-welfare meat, and free from genetically modified ingredients and undesirable additives.

Ms Gougeon, minister for rural affairs and the natural environment, said: “It’s wonderful to see school children enjoying delicious, healthy food that has been grown, sourced and produced in Scotland.

"Since its inception 11 years ago the Food for Life programme has made a big difference to the lives of many young people across the country, and we should celebrate this major milestone today.

“We are working towards being a good food nation where everyone better understands where our food comes from and benefits from the healthy food we produce in Scotland.

“We want more children to enjoy healthy food in their school meals that is grown, sourced and produced in Scotland."

Councillor Jim Clocherty, convener of the education committee, says school meals play an increasingly important part in the nutrition that children get.

He said: "We’re proud to say that the freshly prepared meals our staff serve to local children are made with high quality ingredients which meet the Soil Association’s rigorous standards."

Inverclyde Council now serves 3,527 Food for Life certified meals every day across its 20 certified primary schools.

Councillor Clocherty added: "In Inverclyde, one child in four lives in poverty and research has consistently highlighted the basic fact that you have to eat well to do well.

"We recognise the absolute importance of making sure local children receive good quality meals made from healthy ingredients.

"This initiative provides an important contribution towards their physical development and contributes towards closing the attainment gap between children from poorer areas and more affluent areas."