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Food Poverty

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 4 November 2021

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Questions (303)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

303. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the schemes that are in place to distribute food to persons living in areas of high social deprivation and who are suffering significantly from food poverty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53826/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

My Department is the designated managing authority for the Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD) and has responsibility for the implementation of the programme in Ireland. Support provided through FEAD aims to help people take their first steps out of poverty and social exclusion by addressing their most basic needs.

FoodCloud is the department's primary partner organisation and they deliver the food element of the FEAD programme. FoodCloud manages the procurement and storage of 23 dried FEAD food products and coordinates the collection of the products by the other partner organisations which are the local charities. There are over 150 charities approved as partner organisations across the country and over 5,000 tonnes of food have been distributed to communities through these charities since the programme commenced in late 2016. In 2020, over 250,000 people were supported through this programme.

In addition, the school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food for disadvantaged school 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.

There are 1,506 schools and organisations benefiting 230,000 children on the programme with a budget of €65.1 million provided for the scheme in 2021.

In recent years, entry to the School Meals Scheme has been confined to DEIS schools in addition to schools identified as having levels of concentrated disadvantage that would benefit from access to the School Meals Programme.

Prior to the introduction of DEIS in 2005, all schools and organisations that were part of one of a number of Department of Education and Skills’ initiatives for disadvantaged schools were eligible to participate in the programme, which included Breaking the Cycle, Giving Children an Even Break, the Disadvantaged Area Scheme, Home School Community Liaison and the School Completion Programme. These schools and organisations have continued to remain in the scheme since the introduction of DEIS in 2005 but their level of funding has been capped at the same rate year on that year to allow for the concentration of the scheme on DEIS schools.

Budget 2022 has provided the Department of Education an allocation of €18million for 2022 and €32million for 2023 to extend the DEIS programme to further schools with the highest levels of disadvantage. This represents an increase of over 20% in funding for the DEIS programme and will enable an expansion in 2022 of the programme to further schools.

This package follows an extensive body of work which has been undertaken by the DEIS technical group in relation to the development of a model to identify the concentrated levels of disadvantage of schools. The refined model is an objective, statistics-based process, based on school enrolment data and data available from Census 2016 under the HP Deprivation Index.

This work involved an initial process of consultation by the Department of Education with the education partners on the technical aspects of the model. Over the coming weeks there will be further consultation with relevant stakeholders to outline the components of the model. The purpose is to ensure that, as far as possible, the refined DEIS identification model can provide an objective and independent means of identifying schools serving high concentrations of pupils at risk of educational disadvantage and also to ensure there is a full understanding of the refined model and its potential application.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

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