The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,557 schools and organisations benefitting 227,000 children. The objective of the programme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.
My Department confirmed that funding for the school meals programme will remain in place during the current period of school closures. This mirrors the arrangements that were in place during the school closures in 2020, when the majority of schools in the school meals programme continued to provide food to children, largely through the home delivery of food parcels by suppliers.
The arrangements have not changed from when schools closed previously: namely that the schools may continue to avail of the funding and they may continue to provide food consistent with normal funding terms and conditions. Schools must ensure that they continue to satisfy all public health guidelines.
Each school is allocated school meals programme funding and has responsibility for administering the programme in their school. Funding is strictly for food items only, which must be of suitable nutritional quality. Funding under the scheme is based on a maximum rate per child per day, depending on the type of meal being provided (e.g. €0.60 per child per day where breakfast or a snack is being provided, €1.40 per child per day where cold lunch is being provided, and €2.00 per child per day where both breakfast and lunch is being provided).
A school providing the cold lunch has funding for a weekly food parcel of €7.00 per child (€1.40 x 5 days). The frequency of deliveries is a decision for the school and the supplier. The majority of schools opt to provide a weekly or fortnightly food parcel.
I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.