Written Answers. - Free School Meals.

366.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare the total cost of the free school meals in the past year to the latest available date; the number of meals provided; the average cost of each meal; the type of meal provided; and how much supervision of this scheme takes place.

Expenditure on urban school meals schemes in the year ended 31st December, 1976 was approximately £462,000. Half of this amount was paid by my Department and the other half, together with administration costs, was paid by the local authorities concerned. The number of meals provided was about 12 million and the average cost was slightly under 4p a meal. The type of meal provided consisted generally of milk or cocoa with sandwiches, buns or bread and butter or jam. Expenditure on Gaeltacht school meals schemes in the year ended 31st December, 1975, the latest year for which complete returns are available, was approximately £11,500. Half of this amount was paid by my Department and the other half, together with administration costs, was paid by local authorities. The number of meals provided was about 780,000 and the average cost was about 1.5p a meal. Only hot drinks such as tea, cocoa, drinking chocolate or soup were provided.

School meal schemes are administered by local authorities. My Department do not exercise any direct supervision over their operation, their function being limited to the provision of financial help to enable those local authorities who wish to do so to provide schemes.