MORE and more children in Hertfordshire are tucking into healthy school meals than home-made packed lunches, a survey has revealed.

The survey, carried out by Hertfordshire County Council, showed that 47 per cent of pupils in the county's primary schools opted for school meals in February compared to 44 per cent in the previous year with a national average of 42.5 per cent.

In simple terms Hertfordshire catering was busy serving up 39,526 primary school meals a day last month compared to 36,793 in February 2007.

Healthier menus were introduced to school canteens across the UK in September 2006 as part of a government drive to set new standards for school dinners after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver highlighted the shameful state of school food.

But swapping processed junk for fresh vegetables and wholesome grub in the school canteen did not prove particularly fruitful as children began ditching school dinners for packed lunches.

Now it seems that fresh and nutritional school meals are becoming more appealing as the figures suggest.

Hertfordshire County Council leader Robert Gordon, who visited Howe Dell Primary School in Hatfield to sample a school dish, said: "The fact that increasing numbers of children are enjoying wholesome school food speaks for itself.

"Schools are encouraging a healthy lifestyle as part of the curriculum and children benefit from eating a healthy meal at lunchtime.

"Parents can see that school lunches really are full of goodness and quality ingredients and i'm sure they will encourage their children to try them to see how good they are."