News & Media

Irish School Meals should be extended over the summer too

16 June 2020

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
Spokesperson on Education, Enterprise and Trade

Labour Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has repeated his call for the Government to fund the provision of school meals throughout the summer until schools return in the autumn.

It follows the successful campaign in the UK that was championed by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“Last week I issued a call for the Department of Education to reverse its decision not to provide school meals this summer, in response to a Dáil question I had tabled.

“The UK government have today announced that their school meals programme will continue throughout the summer after a high profile campaign supported by Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.

“Unfortunately the Irish government have replied to me stating they have no plans to continue this essential service for at-risk children throughout the summer. Because of that I have launched a petition calling for a similar initiative here.

“Many European countries continue school meals throughout the summer because they recognise that many vulnerable children need it. We are living in extraordinary times which has put huge strain on families, particularly low income families.

“Many children have found their routines severely impacted and the fact that they are home all the time has put significant pressure on household budgets. It would be a very welcome gesture for the Department to move along with other European counties and to continue the Schools Meal scheme throughout the summer to alleviate food poverty for the most needy of families and most needy of children.

“It’s a change in the current political climate that we are not putting the needs of children first. The decision not to continue with school meals over the summer months is short-sighted and disappointing but it is not too later to change.”

ENDS

Petition available here: https://www.labour.ie/act/extend-the-school-meals-programme-over-the-summer/

Dáil Question:

"To ask the Minister for Education & Skills, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Department has indicated that the school meals funding will not be extended during the summer and in view of the current crisis if he will reconsider this decision and act to extend this very successful program to allow it continue through the summer?" Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD

Reply

The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,580 schools and organisations benefitting 250,000 children. The objective of the scheme 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 and coincides with the school year – September to end May/June each year. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.

Following the announcement of the closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic, by the Taoiseach on 12th March 2020, schools and organisations participating in the school meals programme expressed concerns about the impact of school closures on pupils who avail of school meals, and that the unavailability of school meals impacts in particular on the most disadvantaged in our society.

My Department confirmed that funding to schools would continue to enable schools provide food until the end of the current school year - the end of May for post-primary schools and the end of June for primary schools, in line with the existing parameters of the school meals programme.  There are no plans to extend food provision beyond these dates.

 

I hope this clarifies the matter.