Wednesday, 23 October 2019
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
School Meals Programme
61. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the 36 piloted schools initially targeted under the school meals programme serving hot meals will now be a permanent programme; and her plans to extend the scheme to additional schools. [42470/19]
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.
As part of Budget 2019, it was announced that my department would commence a pilot scheme from September 2019, providing Hot School Meals in 36 primary schools for an estimated 7,200 children at a cost of €1m for 2019 and €2.5m in 2020.
All 3,239 primary schools were issued with an invitation to submit an expression of interest to participate in the pilot. Over 500 expressions of interest were received from Primary Schools across the country.
The 36 schools chosen to participate in the pilot were selected randomly, having regard to geographical spread, numbers enrolled, range of suppliers and the overall budget available for the pilot in 2019 and 2020; €1m and €2.5 respectively.
The pilot will also be run in Our Lady of Lourdes National School in Goldenbridge for the 2019/20 school year following the Proof of Concept which has been operating there successfully since early this year.
A report will issue after the pilot is complete and the outcomes evaluated. Outcomes will be tracked and measured throughout the duration of the pilot.
As part of Budget 2020, I am providing an additional €4 million in funding to extend the Hot School Meals scheme nationwide in 2020 for children currently receiving the cold lunch option. If the full-year evaluation of the current pilot project confirms the positive impacts initially reported, this funding will allow my Department to extend the Hot School Meals scheme from September 2020 to an additional 35,000 children, especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
Any further extension of the pilot programme can only be considered in a budgetary context.
I trust that this clarifies the position.