Thursday, 29 April 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
School Meals Programme
I appreciate the disappointment and frustration for all 92 schools that submitted an expression of interest to access hot school meals and were not selected, including the school in question. The level of demand for the programme is a clear sign of the need for its expansion. I will raise the matter with the Minister.
Officials from the Department have contacted all schools selected and are in the process of considering responses. If schools that have been selected decide not to proceed, we can reallocate the places. Further consideration will be given to the use of any excess capacity once we have confirmed the position with the selected schools. Any further extension of the provision of hot meals will need to be considered in this year's budget process.
As Minister of State with responsibility for the implementation of the roadmap for social inclusion, I recently announced the establishment of a working group on food poverty. It is my intention that this working group will bring together key stakeholders from various Departments and State agencies, as well as the NGO sector, to share information and assess the myriad different schemes and programmes currently under way that have a connection to the wider issues of food poverty, including the school meals programme. It is my intention to have the group meet with a view to identifying the key drivers of food poverty to maximise interventions that adequately address the underlying issues.