Gone are the days where parents have to quickly put a packed lunch together usually consisting of a sandwich, crisp packet, yoghurt and fruit for their children, thanks to the revolutionary free school meals plan for infant school pupils, launched by the government.

The government predicts the latest change will help parents in Hounslow save £3.3m or a small fortune of £400 per child a year.

In exchange youngsters will indulge in a healthy and balanced diet, rich in nutrients, for their afternoon meal, with studies proving higher concentration levels in the classroom and less obese children.

Executive chef Edson Lopes Junior
 

Mr Lopes, a 36-year-old Michelin star chef ran an award-winning restaurant in Knightsbridge for a number of years before he started cooking up meals in schools.

His new venture began around seven years ago after he was approached by headteacher of Hampton Court House Independent School in East Molesey, where the idea conceived, and his team at JPL Catering still provide meals to the private school to date.

A visit to the school by an impressed principal Ed Vainker of Reach Academy in Feltham led to Mr Lopes' signing with the west London academy.

After working out a budget, the renowned chef and his team got to work to deliver the school's nutritional meals using fresh fruit and vegetables daily, much of it sourced locally, and creating different menus every week.

Fast forward two years and school lunches are a hit with pupils at the free school where Mr Vainker along with his team of teachers sit and eat with the children.

Mr Lopes is originally from Brazil, moved to the UK 14 years ago and now lives in Surrey.

He said: "All my chefs are trained by me and we have been together for more than seven years. When Boris Johnson visited us at Reach Academy he was amazed by the food.  He asked a student 'is that what you get everyday' and the student replied, no today is not the best day, that's tomorrow."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson visits Reach Academy, Feltham The Mayor enjoys lunch with pupils
 

Mr Lopes played a part in the government's School Food Plan which was published last year.

He showed them his recipes and made suggestions such as not having pasta on the menu twice in a week due to the high level of carbs, but said an alternative meal would be a better option such as roast beef with potatoes and vegetables.

He said the move to seven vegetables a day means he has to get really creative.

For example, for Reach pupils, he blends seven vegetables to make a tomato sauce for a pasta dish which is a very popular dish among the children.

For £2 a student there is a vegetarian and non-vegetarian option, salad, and dessert with all dietary requirements are adhered to.

Mr Lopes who has a team of three chefs at Feltham academy, added: "The School Food Plan team were amazed at how I do this for £2 per student. We try to keep everything as fresh as possible from lasagne to fish fingers, everything is homemade.

"We change the menu weekly after getting information from the local suppliers of what good value ingredients they have which is dependent on season too, and then make a decision. I think it is a very fair plan and I am surprised it has taken so long to come into practice, but it is amazing the government are helping to do this."

A huge £150m has been made available to improve school kitchen and dining facilities so the meals can be provided, and cooking is back on the curriculum.

Mr Junior said pack lunches have been "totally unhealthy and lack nutrition and vitamins", adding "on a day where children have sports and have a ham sandwich, crisps, and fruit for lunch they will not have enough energy to get through the afternoon.

"The headmaster at Hampton mentioned to me the kids now have a better level of concentrations than they did six years ago. It is amazing to hear as a professional from the headmaster to say I have helped students concentration - it is a recognition of my work. Boris said he wished Eton had the same school meals that Reach students have now."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson visits Reach Academy, Feltham The Mayor enjoys lunch with pupils
 

Examples of school meals served up at Reach Academy:

Vegetable Boost - pasta in tomato sauce (cooked in seven vegetables)

Moroccan lamb stew (tagine)

Pumpkin stew with chicken - popular with the children

Asian chicken with stir fried vegetables and rice            

Chicken curry or aubergine curry and rice

Later this month, Mr Lopes will release a recipe book with tips on sourcing ingredients at affordable prices.

According to data released from The Children's Society, Ealing has 10,834 children getting free school meals, the highest in London, of which 3,230 live in poverty.

In neighbouring boroughs, Hounslow has 7,851 children with free school meals of which 2,301 are living in poverty.

And in Hammersmith and Fulham a much lower figure of 3,067 pupils gaining free school meals of which 884 live in poverty.

Nick Clegg
 

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg – who is spearheading the new initiative – said: “Free school meals for infants will not only save families hundreds of pounds a year but will also have an impact on how a child performs in the classroom so that, regardless of their background, every child can have the best possible start in life.

“Pupils at the pilot schools who were all given free meals were found to be up to two months ahead of their peers elsewhere.

“This is one of the most progressive changes to our school system for a long time.

"My goal is to create a level playing field for all of our children so their success will be determined by their talents and efforts alone and not by their parents’ bank balance.”