From this month, every child in the first three years of school will be able to enjoy a free healthy school lunch.

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 ensuring a healthy, nutritionally balanced school lunch has never been so important.

Childhood obesity is one of our greatest public health challenges – overweight and obese children face numerous health risks including diabetes and asthma and risks increase as they enter adulthood.

Only 1% 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 transform a generation of diets and halt the rising tide of obesity and ill-health.

Professor Terence Stephenson, Chair, UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges

John Ashton, President, Faculty of Public Health

Maureen Baker, Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners

Dr Mark Porter, Chair, British Medical Association

Janet Ashton, President, Association of Directors of Public Health

Lord Hunt, President, Royal Society for Public Health

Ingrid Wolfe, Co-chair British Association of Child and Adolescent Public Health

Dr Gabrielle Laing, Chair, British Association for Child Community Health