WYRE FOREST children this week started tucking into their free school meals - and some are getting to choose the menu.

Every four to seven-year-old in the country now has the right to a free lunch at school.

And at Birchen Coppice Primary, Kidderminster - in an area acknowledged as being among the most deprived in the country - the children themselves are choosing the meals in advance.

Head teacher Kay Butler said: "It will make a huge difference because at least every child up to seven will have a nutritional meal every day.

"They will also be able to experience types of food they wouldn't normally have.

"We give some guidance to the children but they are able to choose the menu a couple of weeks in advance."

On the menu for the first day of term yesterday (Wednesday) at Birchen Coppice was fish fingers with diced potatoes or jacket potatoes with chicken mayonnaise.

Other typical meals include sweet potato and chick pea curry, chicken pasta with wholegrain pitta bread and rustic cottage pie - and every day there is an option of a jacket potato or a sandwich of ham, cheese or tuna.

A total of 104 Birchen Coppice children, in the reception, year one and year two classes, are now getting free lunches.

Mrs Butler said: "Birchen Coppice is in a deprived area of the country - so it is particularly important, because healthy eating can be expensive.

"But, regardless of where children are from, many do not eat well - so this is important for all."

Government ministers say the introduction of free meals for the country's two million infants - costing £1 billion a year - will save families up to £400 a year per child on packed lunches.

And experts say it will have health and education benefits too.

The Children's Society has welcomed the move, saying that, in Worcestershire, 14,443 children qualify for the free meal, of which 490 live in poverty.

The County Council says all local schools are providing free school lunches, with 98 per cent serving hot food.

The council also says that the move has provided no financial problems for the county, unlike some areas of the country, which claim they have a funding shortfall.

The Children's Society is still campaigning for older youngsters from more low-income families to qualify for free school meals.

The Fair and Square campaign says some low-income families are unable to get free school meals simply because their parents are working - no matter how little they earn.