Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ceisteanna (636, 637, 638, 639, 640, 641)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

636. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of schools in receipt of the school meals programme; the number that do not have DEIS status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11559/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

637. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the cost of extending the school meals programme to cover the cost of kitchen equipment, facilities or staff costs for those current recipients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11560/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

638. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the cost of developing a pilot for the school meals programme to youth services, early years settings and after-school programmes to address the issue of food poverty for children and young persons availing of those services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11561/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

639. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the consideration that has been given to extending the school meals programme to youth services, early years settings and after-school programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11562/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

640. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the cost of extending the school meals programme to cover schools that do not have DEIS status but that would otherwise have disadvantaged status under the Pobal HP deprivation index; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11563/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

641. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the qualifying criteria for the school meals programme; if these have been reviewed or will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11564/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 636 to 641, inclusive, together.

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. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.

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. In the 2017/2018 academic year there were 1,214 schools benefitting from the scheme; 367 of these schools do not have DEIS status.

Participation in the scheme is entirely voluntary with the onus being on the individual eligible schools to make an application. Schools and organisations must reapply for funding in advance of each school year and are required to submit detailed records at the end of the school year. Funding is based on a rate of payment per meal, per child, per day. The maximum rates of payment and examples of food to be provided are contained in the following tabular statement.

Nutrition Standards for School Meals were published in September 2017 under the auspices of Healthy Ireland, Safefood and the HSE. The Standards are mandatory from the 2018/2019 funding year and organisations will be required to provide evidence of full compliance with them as part of the application and inspection processes.

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 €1 million for 2019 and €2.5 million in a full year. The premise of the pilot is to take account of the fact that the majority of schools don't have kitchen/canteen facilities and that the food be prepared off-site in such instances. Issues relating to capital expenditure within schools is a matter for the Department of Education and Skills. The focus on the pilot will be on primary schools and currently there are no plans to extend it to youth services, early years settings and after-school programmes.

I trust that this clarifies the position.

Tabular Statement - School Meals Food Clubs Rates of Payment

Meal

Max Rate of Payment (per child per day)

Minimum number of food items

Examples f Food to be Provided

Breakfast/Snack

€0.60

2 items

1 serving of wholemeal/wholegrain cereal or bread PLUS 1 serving of fruit OR 1 serving of milk, yogurt or cheese

Lunch

€1.40

1 substantial item + 1 small item + a drink

Wholemeal/wholegrain sandwich or roll containing 1 serving meat, poultry, egg or cheese and 1 serving salad PLUS 1 serving fruit PLUS a drink (e.g. water, milk, unsweetened juice)

Dinner

€1.90

Hot meal + drink

1 serving meat, poultry, egg, beans PLUS 1 serving potatoes, pasta or rice PLUS 2 servings vegetables/fruit PLUS a drink (Milk, Water, Unsweetened Juice)