Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
238. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied); the steps her Department is taking to address food poverty in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17788/21]
I have read the report provided by the Deputy which documents the challenges posed in the Finglas area by COVID-19 and related restrictions.
I can confirm that the Department of Social Protection is helping communities to address food poverty in the Finglas and wider Dublin 11 community through the School Meals programme and Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). FEAD supports EU Member States’ actions to provide food and material assistance to the most deprived.
Last year following the closure of the schools as a result of the pandemic restrictions, concern was raised that children from disadvantaged backgrounds might not receive nutritious meals outside of school. The Government decided that funding under the School Meals Programme could be used to support schools which identify pupils who were unlikely to receive nutritious food during the current COVID-19 pandemic and were willing to set up a system to provide children with nutritious food while the schools are closed. This funding was provided during the summer months and throughout the period of school closures following the move to Level 5 restrictions in late December. Funding is also available during the current Easter break from 29 March – 9 April.
Under the School Meals programme, the Department of Social Protection has committed nearly €1.8 million to 28 schools and organisations in Dublin 11, during the 2020/21 school year. This benefits over 5,800 children. More recently last week, Minister Humphreys launched the Hot School Meals Programme 2021, which will benefit some 35,000 pupils in 189 primary schools, a number of which are in the Finglas area.
FoodCloud is the primary Partner Organisation to deliver the food element of the FEAD Programme and they are responsible for the procurement and storage of the FEAD products, and coordinating collection of the FEAD products by the other Partner Organisations (mainly community-based charities). There are a number of Local Partner Organisations with access to FEAD products in the North Dublin/Finglas area, including the St Vincent De Paul, Barnardos Finglas and the Finglas Addiction Support Team (FAST). The Department and FoodCloud have been monitoring the supply and demand for food closely since the outbreak of COVID–19. If the existing need increases, local partner organisations can apply for an increase in the food/credit allocation by contacting the FEAD Unit (FEAD@welfare.ie) providing an outline of the increased level of demand.
Looking at food poverty on a broader scale, the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025 was published in 2020 and is the national strategy aimed at reducing poverty and increasing social inclusion in Ireland. The Social Inclusion Roadmap Steering Group is an inter-departmental group which monitors the implementation and progress of Roadmap commitments. I chair the Steering Group which met for the second time on 30 March 2021.
The Roadmap includes a specific commitment for the development of a programme of work to further explore the drivers of food poverty and to identify mitigating actions. With this in mind, I intend to establish a Working Group to tackle the issue of food poverty. It is my intention that the group will comprise senior officials from various Government Departments and representatives from relevant NGOs. I believe that this approach will harness the collective efforts of all Departments and tackle the issue of food poverty in a coherent and holistic manner.
I thank the Deputy for her question and hope this clarifies the matter.