Written answers

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

School Meals Programme

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Independent)
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237. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a school (details supplied) has not been selected for the school meals scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17780/21]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,557 schools and organisations benefitting 227,000 children. The objective of the programme 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, funding was provided for a pilot scheme from September 2019, providing hot school meals in primary schools at a cost of €1m for 2019 and €2.5m in 2020. The pilot involved 37 schools benefitting 6,744 students for the 2019/2020 academic year and was aimed primarily at schools with no onsite cooking facilities.

In Budget 2021, I announced that an additional €5.5m would be provided to extend the provision of hot school meals to an additional 35,000 primary school children, currently receiving the cold lunch option. Officials from the department issued invitations for expressions of interest to some 700 primary schools in November 2020. A total of 281 expressions of interest were received in respect of 52,148 children.

The 35,000 places were allocated to each local authority area based on the number of children applied by local authority as a percentage of the total number. A minimum of one School for each Local Authority area was selected. Thereafter, a process of random selection was used for each area.

As a result of this process, 189 of the 281 schools that submitted an expression of interest were selected, including 4 schools in County Clare, and the 596 children attending these schools will be entitled to receive hot school meals.

Unfortunately, Scoil Chríost Rí, Ennis was not selected and I appreciate that this is disappointing for the school. Please be assured of my Department’s support and that the current cold lunch option remains available to the school.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

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