Thursday, 29 April 2021
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
School Meals Programme
75. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider the hot meals programme in the case of a school (details supplied); and if she will review this anomaly. [22468/21]
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. My Department issued invitations for expressions of interest to 705 (612 DEIS and 95 non-DEIS) primary schools in November 2020. A total of 281 (256 DEIS and 25 non-DEIS) 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. Of the 189 schools selected, 171 (90.5%) are DEIS and 18 (9.5%) are non-DEIS.
Both schools referred to by the Deputy submitted an Expression of Interest for the Hot Meals Scheme. They have separate roll numbers and are two separate entities despite the fact they are located on the same site. Unfortunately one of the schools was not selected and I appreciate that this is disappointing for the school.
We have contacted all schools selected for the Hot Meals Scheme and are in the process of considering responses. Further consideration will be given to the use of any excess capacity once we have confirmed the position with the selected schools.
Any further extension of the provision of hot meals will need to be considered in a budgetary context.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.