New report details hugely positive impact of School Meals on children’s education and wellbeing
Evaluation recommends making Hot School Meals universal by 2030
Hot School Meals to be extended to all DEIS primary schools from September
Phased roll-out to all non-DEIS Primary Schools to commence in 2024; Expression of Interest process to be launched in coming weeks
School meal rates for providers to be increased
The Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD, has today announced landmark plans for the roll-out of the Hot School Meals Programme to every Primary School in Ireland.
The Minister made the announcement as she published an independent evaluation of the School Meals Programme which sets out the positive impact the Programme is having in terms of children’s education and wellbeing.
The School Meals Programme has an annual Budget of over €94 million. It supports over 1,600 schools and organisations nationwide and benefits over 260,000 children.
RSM Ireland was appointed by the Department of Social Protection to conduct the evaluation of the School Meals Programme.
Key conclusions of the evaluation include:
There is an overwhelming consensus among all participants in the evaluation that the School Meals Programme is effective.
The evaluation indicates strong support for extending the School Meals Programme.
Results of this evaluation found a high level of qualitative evidence that the provision of school meals resulted in improvements in attendance in school.
The qualitative evidence collected suggest that providing children with food in school is making a difference to families, both in terms of money saved, and for some families, in time saved in food preparation.
The Report makes a number of recommendations, including:
The provision of the hot school meal option should be extended to all DEIS primary schools for the 2023/24 academic year.
There should be a universal school meals programme with one free hot meal for every child in Ireland and this should be implemented in a phased approach by 2030.
The report recommends an interim increase in funding rates for all meal options in the School Meals Programme.
The following increases to School Meal Rates will be introduced, effective from 1st January 2023:
Breakfast - increase from €0.60 to €0.75 (15c increase).
Cold Lunch - increase from €1.40 to €1.70 (30c increase).
Dinner - increase from €1.90 to €2.50 (60c increase).
Hot School Meal - increase from €2.90 to €3.20 (30c increase).
The evaluation of the School Meals Programme is available here.
Notes for the Editor:
The School Meals Programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,600 schools and organisations benefitting 260,000 children at present. The focus of this Programme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who may be 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.
The hot school meals element was introduced in 2019 and has grown significantly from a small pilot of 30 schools to a programme providing nutritious hot meals to almost 500 primary schools and currently benefits more than 90,000 children.
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