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Social Protection | School-dinner scheme

To ask the Minister for Social Protection if consideration may be given to an alternative to the school-dinner scheme, including the possible option of hot and cold meals depending on the time of year, in order to facilitate energy-savings and eliminate waste; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

The School Meals Programme provides funding towards the provision of food services to some 1,700 schools and organisations and benefitting 260,000 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.

Budget 2022 provided €68.1 million for the programme with an additional €9m provided to allow access to all new DEIS schools from September 2022.

Funding under the school meals programme can be provided for breakfast, snack, cold lunch, dinner, hot school meals and afterschool clubs and is based on a maximum rate per child per day, depending on the type of meal being provided. 

Any school wishing to provide a cold meal option rather than the hot school meal depending on the time of the year, should make contact with the school meals section of my department to provide details of the proposed changes. The cold meal must be a substantial meal and provide the same nutritional value as the hot school meal.

I am pleased that my estimate for school meals next year provides for an increase of €23.5m on the 2022 estimate, bringing the total to €91.6m.  I am committed to continuing to expand the school meals programme and building further on the significant extension of the programme in recent years. In this regard, I have commissioned an evaluation of the school meals programme, which is currently underway. As part of this review all elements of the programme will be considered.

I trust this clarifies the matter. 

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