Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Hot Schools Meals programme would continue through the Easter Holidays, this was in error. Funding will continue to support the umbrella School Meals Programme during the holidays.
Two primary schools in Galway are among 189 around the country which have been allocated funding under the Hot School Meals Programme this year.
St. Joseph’s Special School in Newcastle, Galway City and Scoil Naisiunta Naomh Treasa in Caiseal are among those included in the 2021 Hot School Meals Programme.
An additional €5.5 million was announced for the extension of the programme in Budget 2021, benefitting approximately 35,000 primary school children.
The programme provides hot food at schools which do not already have a canteen or kitchen.
Galway Senator Aisling Dolan said “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, funding for the School Meals Programme had been confined to the academic year, however the Department of Social Protection has ensured that this support has continued throughout, including during term breaks and school holidays.”
Roughly 40 percent of primary schools expressed an interest in the programme Senator Dolan said, with the 189 chosen based on geographical spread, pupil numbers, and the programme budget.
Each school must identify a supplier who will supply the food in line with the relevant food safety regulations and the Healthy Ireland ‘Nutrition Standards for Hot School Meals’.
Schools will be expected to provide a menu choice of at least two different meals per day plus a vegetarian/vegan option, as well as an option that caters for pupils’ religious and cultural dietary requirements.
Minister Heather Humphreys said “the Hot School Meals Programme is an important initiative in terms of a child’s wellbeing and nutrition. It is also known to facilitate better education outcomes.”
“When the scheme was initially launched as a pilot, it was availed of by 6,600 children in 37 schools.”
“From today, the Hot School Meals Programme will support 35,000 children in 189 schools in every city and county in the country.”
This falls under the umbrella of the broader School Meals Programme, which provides funding for the provision of food to 1,557 schools and organisations benefitting 227,000 children.
The Department has also expanded funding for this umbrella programme to cover primary and secondary schools over the Easter Holidays.
“Before the Pandemic, funding for the School Meals Programme had been confined to the academic year,” Minister Humphreys said.
“However in response to COVID-19, my department has ensured that this vital support has continued throughout, regardless of whether schools were open or not.”
“I want to reassure schools and parents that funding for the Programme will continue during the upcoming Easter break from 29 March to 9 April.”
“Ensuring funding for the School Meals Programme – across both the school terms and holiday periods – offers a security for children who rely on this important support.”