For Oral Answer on : 09/02/2023
Question Number(s): 47 Question Reference(s): 6170/23
Department: Social Protection
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
* To ask the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 113 of 26 October 2022, if she has received the final report on the school meals programme; if so, the actions, if any, she plans to take as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
– David Stanton T.D.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 9 February, 2023.
The School Meals Programme provides funding towards the provision of food services to some 1,600 schools and organisations benefitting 260,000 children. The objective of the programme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children to support them in taking full advantage of the education provided to them. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.
Budget 2022 provided €68.1 million for the programme with an additional €9m provided to allow access to all new DEIS schools from September 2022. Additional funding for the programme has been provided for 2023 bringing the total to €94.4m. This represents a 53% funding increase in the period since 2020.
In March 2022, the Minister for Education announced an extension of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in School to an additional 320 schools from September 2022. In July, I announced that the access to the hot school meal option would be extended to the 282 newly designated DEIS primary schools and to the cold lunch option to the 38 newly designated DEIS secondary schools from September, benefitting some 60,000 children. This allowed all pupils in the new DEIS schools to avail of one substantial meal for the additional budget provided.
Funding under the school meals scheme can be provided for breakfast, snack, cold lunch, dinner, hot school meals and afterschool clubs and is based on a maximum rate per child per day, depending on the type of meal being provided, e.g. €1.40 per child per day where a cold lunch club is being provided, €1.90 per child per day where a dinner club is being provided and €2.90 per child per day where a Hot Meal club is being provided.
Dinner clubs provide a hot meal but are different from the Hot School Meals clubs in that they tend to be provided by schools with onsite cooking facilities whereas food for Hot Meals clubs is cooked offsite and either delivered hot or reheated in the school. There was no recent increase in the rate of €1.90 for dinner clubs or any other meal option.
I am committed to continuing to expand the school meals programme and building further on the significant extension of the programme in recent years. In this regard, I commissioned the evaluation of the school meals programme to review all elements of the programme including the current funding rates. The final report was recently received which I am currently reviewing. This report will help to inform future decisions around this important programme.
I trust this clarifies the matter.