One free hot meal a day should be provided to every school child according to new report 5 months ago

One free hot meal a day should be provided to every school child according to new report

Free meals to all school children is "long overdue"

A Government-commissioned evaluation of the country's school meals scheme has recommended that every student should receive one free hot meal a day in school.

In a proposal that has the backing of Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, the study said the measure should be in place in every school by 2030.

According to RTE News, the minister has accepted that free hot school meals should be provided to school children in every disadvantaged primary school from this coming September.

It's understood she is also backing that the rates for the wider School Meals Programme be increased.

RSM Ireland carried out the report that is due to be published later this morning by the minister.

In it are positive findings about the impact of the current School Meals Programme, which is currently in place in 1,600 schools in Ireland.

It found that school principals and others staff agreed that the programme had helped to improve attendance, behaviour management and concentration in class.

The programme has also helped children improve their attitudes to food, as well as their concentration and overall health.


Only 500 of the 1,600 schools, all disadvantaged primary schools, currently provide pupils with hot cooked meals.

This number will double in September if the minister's plan to include all disadvantaged and special schools in the scheme goes ahead.

Ms Humphreys is expected to confirm that from next year the department will roll out the hot meals scheme to all remaining primary schools on a phased basis.

Suppliers of school meals will see a rate increase

She is also expected to announce an increase in the rates paid to suppliers of school meals.

Both schools and suppliers have complained in recent months that funding has fallen far behind the real cost of providing food for children under the scheme.

The report states that additional costs are currently being met by schools or by families. This is not allowed under the rules of the scheme.


Schools or suppliers currently get 60c per breakfast per child.

Breakfast is usually cereal or a slice of wholemeal bread along with fruit, milk or yoghurt.

The scheme provides funding of €1.40 for a cold lunch, such as a sandwich and a hot drink, while €2.90 is provided in funding to each hot school meal.

The expected new rates include a 15c increase in the breakfast payment, a 30c increase for lunch, a 60c increase for dinner and a 30c increase in the hot meal allowance bringing it to €3.20.

The evaluation report also highlighted the lack of proper kitchen facilities in many Irish schools.

It found that most participants were not satisfied with the spaces available for preparing, cooking, heating or eating food.

The report also showed schools are concerned about the issue of holiday hunger.

It said that principals in particular were hopeful that the programme could be expanded to cover the Christmas, Easter, and mid-term breaks.

It recommended that a modified version of the School Meals Programme is created for outside of term time to address holiday hunger.

Suzanne Connolly, CEO Barnardos has said the rollout of free meals to all school children is "long overdue" and they want to have the new recommendations in place by 2030.

She said: "We know how much children benefit from having proper food in school, for their social and emotional wellbeing and it makes them happier."

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