Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Health Promotion

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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226. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the level of funding provided over the past five years for healthy food initiatives; the budget and participation rates for these programmes in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10962/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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My Department supports Agri Aware’s Incredible Edibles programme, a healthy eating initiative for Primary School pupils. The programme is also supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Health. It encourages schools across the country to grow carrots, lettuce, potatoes, strawberries, turnips and herbs. Schools are supplied with grow packs, activity sheets and videos containing everything needed to grow these foods. Funding provided by my Department for this programme is as follows:

Year  Initiative Amount
2016 Incredible Edibles €5,000
2017 Incredible Edibles €7,500
2018 Incredible Edibles €11,500
2019 Incredible Edibles €11,500
2020 Incredible Edibles €7,500
My Department also works closely with the Department of Health and the HSE on the broad Healthy Ireland agenda. The Department is represented on a number of groups including the National Physical Activity Plan Implementation Group and on the Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group.

Guidance regarding Healthy Lifestyles was issued to post primary schools in 2015 and to primary schools in 2016. This guidance was drafted in consultation with the Department of Health. My Department acknowledges the commitment of schools in promoting healthy lifestyle choices for students in a number of ways, including through the curriculum, through schools policy including healthy lunch policies and by the use of resources and programmes chosen by the school.

Additionally, the School Meals Programme, operated by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, provides funding towards the provision of food services for disadvantaged school children through two schemes:

- The statutory Urban School Meals Scheme for primary schools is operated by Local Authorities and part-financed by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

- The non-statutory School Meals Local Projects Scheme provides funding directly from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to primary schools, post-primary schools and local groups and voluntary organisations which operate their own school meals projects

The curriculum also informs and educates around healthy eating habits at both primary and post primary levels.

At primary level, one of the SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education) strand units 'Taking care of my body' specifically addresses the need for regular exercise and activity as well as the area of nutrition and food and the need for a balanced diet. This unit is built upon from Infants classes onwards. By Fifth and Sixth classes children are encouraged to realise and accept responsibility for making wise food choices and for adopting a healthy, balanced diet, and in that, exploring and examining the food pyramid. Many primary schools operate healthy eating policies with the support of parents.

Elements of this strand are supported by the "Food Dudes" programme which encourages children to eat more fruit and vegetables both in school and in the home. The programme is managed by Bord Bia and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries and also by the EU through the School Fruit Scheme.

At post primary level, the SPHE programme is a mandatory part of the curriculum in Junior Cycle. SPHE for Junior Cycle builds on the primary SPHE curriculum. Nutrition is specifically addressed in the SPHE curriculum. Students are made aware of the elements of a balanced diet and the importance of healthy eating for physical and mental well-being. In addition, cross-curricular links with other subjects, such as Home Economics, PE and Science that deal with SPHE-related topics are encouraged. Home Economics as an exam subject also remains a popular choice among students.

My Department will continue to work in partnership with other Departments and agencies to promote healthy lifestyles for students.


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