The interdepartmental working group that I established to review the school meals scheme has met on ten occasions to date, the first of these being in September 1999.
The working group comprises representatives of my Department, the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science, the Environment and Local Government and Finance, Dublin Corporation and the City and County Managers Association.
The group has engaged in an extensive consultation process as part of this review. All of the issues and difficulties with the current scheme and suggestions for a reformed scheme that have emerged during the consultation process will inform the group's consideration of the future policy direction for the scheme.
Pending completion of the report I have provided £300,000 interim funding towards the food costs for the voluntary and community group sand schools currently providing school meals outside the existing scheme. This funding has initially been allocated to 15 projects and will benefit approximately 2,500 children. A further 41 applications are currently being considered. In addition, there have been inquiries from another 27 groups.
I expect to receive the group's report this summer. On receipt of the report I hope to be in a position to bring proposals for a reformed school meals scheme to Government.