The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children at a total cost of €57.6 million in 2019 representing an increase of €3.6 million over the previous year. The objective of the scheme 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.
As part of Budget 2019, it was announced that DEASP would commence a pilot scheme from September 2019, providing Hot School Meals in 36 schools for an estimated 7,200 children at a cost of €1m for 2019 and €2.5m in a full year.
The Programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement by children.
Research shows us the value of the provision of adequate and nutritious meals for a child’s health, learning, attention and educational achievement. That is why I am providing funds to establish a pilot programme for a hot meals scheme in schools.
It has been agreed that the pilot will only be for primary schools not currently participating in the existing ‘Hot Dinners’ School Meals Programme. Schools participating in the breakfast and lunch component of the existing School Meals Programme will be eligible for the pilot, though the ‘Hot Meal’ will replace the ‘lunch’ option if selected.
Eligible primary schools will be issued with an invitation to submit an Expression of Interest to participate in the pilot. Funding of €2.90 per meal will be provided and it will not be permitted to seek an additional contribution from families to provide the meals. Schools will identify a supplier who will supply (prepare and deliver) the hot meals in line with HACCP and food safety regulations in compliance with the Healthy Ireland nutrition standards for school meals.
If successful, I would hope to work with the Department of Education and Skills (DES) in extending the scheme on a much wider basis in future years and establish the scheme on a permanent basis.