PRIMARY schools across East Lancashire will receive kitchen makeovers ahead of universal school meals.

From September, children of all backgrounds will receive a free school lunch up to the age of seven. It is expected to see demand for school meals surge.

Lancashire County Council is to spend £3.2m revamping infant and primary school kitchens, and Blackburn with Darwen Council will spend £530,000.

The move has been welcomed by community foodbanks, which said free school meals were ‘a lifeline’ for many families.

Blackburn Foodbank manager Ros Duerden said: “I’ve already written to all the Blackburn with Darwen schools inviting referrals of families who will struggle this summer.

“Last year we helped 17 families avoid reaching a crisis point without their free school meals.

“It really is a lifeline for some people who are too proud.

“Our biggest problem is not false claims, it is people who would rather go hungry behind closed doors than admit they are in trouble.”

The allocation of funding for schools is based on the numbers of pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 across mainstream, special and short stay schools. A spokeswoman for Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “The council has worked with community schools to identify the work needed.

“A programme of works is currently being finalised.”

Lancashire’s programme of schools to receive funding includes Rosegrove Infants, in Burnley which will receive £33,000 for a complete reorganisation of the kitchen.

Dozens of schools are set to benefit.

They include Huncoat Primary School and Hyndburn Park Primary School, in Accrington, which will each receive £13,000 for new equipment.

Briercliffe Primary School, in Burnley, will also receive new equipment worth £13,000, and Clitheroe’s Edisford Primary School will receive £7,000 for an equipment upgrade.

Lancashire’s executive director for Children and Young People John Ferris said: “The main driver for the funding is in respect of the ability of school kitchens to provide hot meals for all Key Stage 1 pupils.

“Within Lancashire there are a number of solutions for delivering school meals.

“In order to ensure there is consistency in the ability of school kitchens to provide free school meals, officers have undertaken assessments.”