Written Answers. - School Meals Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

389 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs his plans to extend the school meals programme to children in disadvantaged communities. [27752/01]

School meals are funded by my Department using two different avenues at present. One is the school meals scheme, which has been operated in conjunction with certain local authorities for over eighty years. The other is the school meals community programme which I introduced last year. The school meals scheme provides financial assistance to local authorities, except county councils, for the provision of school meals for national school children who are "unable by reason of lack of food to take full advantage of the education provided for them". In most cases, the local authorities provide participating schools with a sandwich or a bun and milk for each eligible child. My Department meets half of the food costs. The school meals community programme meets the food costs of the voluntary and community based groups that are currently operating innovative school meals projects outside of the scope of the statutory school meals scheme. This funding is provided to initiatives known as breakfast, lunch, homework or after school clubs at local level, that are targeting areas of disadvantage or children with special needs.

The type of meals provided is decided by the local groups that design and run the projects. The amount of funding given by my Department depends on the type and number of meals provided. As the Deputy may be aware, I have established an interdepartmental working group to review the school meals scheme with a view to developing proposals for the future of school meals provision. The membership of the working group includes, amongst others, a consultant dietitian representing the Department of Health and Children. As part of their considerations the group will be examining the nutritional value of the food that will be provided under the reformed scheme. I expect to receive the working group's report towards the end of this year, following which I hope to be in a position to bring proposals to Government regarding a reformed school meals scheme.