Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Department of Social and Family Affairs
School Meals Programme
Question 320: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the analysis carried out on the extent of food waste arising from the school meal programme; the assessments that were carried out in respect of quantities wasted in 2007 and 2008 in regard to the 1,638 schools in the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7136/09]
The school meals programme gives funding towards the provision of food services for disadvantaged school children through two schemes. The first is the long-standing statutory urban school meals scheme, operated by local authorities and part-financed by the Department of Social & Family Affairs. The second is the school meals local projects scheme through which funding is provided directly by the Department to participating schools and local and voluntary community groups who are running their own school meals projects.
Under the School Meals Local Projects scheme, the Department funds schools and school-based community organisations in respect of food costs only, subject to various conditions. Funding is issued on the basis of a rate per child, per meal, per day. It is the responsibility of the school or project to ensure that food is purchased only for children in attendance. All schools or projects have to submit financial returns to the Department which detail the numbers and types of meals provided and the numbers of children benefiting. These returns are backed up by receipts for food costs incurred. School principals making returns have to certify the number of meals provided and the number of pupils benefiting. This is to ensure that all funding is used for the purpose for which it is intended and that no wastage occurs. Officials from the Department make visits to a number of participating schools throughout the year as a control measure.
The Department can confirm that it is currently investigating an allegation in relation to the operation of the School Meals programme. The Department cannot comment on individual cases of fraud or abuse until they have been successfully prosecuted through the courts.