For Oral Answer on : 09/02/2023
Question Number(s): 37 Question Reference(s): 6169/23
Department: Social Protection
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Social Protection her plans to further expand the school meals programme; the number of applications for inclusion in the scheme that were received for the 2022/2023 school year; the number of these applications that were successful and unsuccessful; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
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.
The schools meals programme provides funding towards food services for disadvantaged school children through two schemes: The urban school meals scheme and the school meals (local projects) scheme. The school meals (local projects) scheme provides funding directly to schools and organisations for the provision of food while the Urban School Meals Scheme is operated and administered by local authorities and is part-financed by my department.
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.
The number of applications received for inclusion in the school meals (local projects) scheme in the 2022/2023 school year is 1,588 with 1,495 applications awarded and 15 disallowed to date. The remaining applications are pending awaiting further information from the schools.
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. 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.