Published date: 03 Jul 2024

As schools close for summer, many children benefiting from Hot School Meals Scheme risk missing out on their only hot meal of the day

Today (03.07.24), the Children’s Rights Alliance highlighted the urgent need for an initiative to tackle holiday hunger outside of school term time at an event focusing on the prevailing issue of food poverty across the country.

Sustained investment over the last number of budgets has resulted in 265,423 children and young people receiving a daily hot meal during the school term to date. However, as schools close for summer there are concerns surrounding the high level of food poverty impacting children across Ireland and how some families relying on the scheme will be unable to provide their children with hot meals over the coming months.

Speaking on the need for action, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said:

Last week, thousands of children across the country finished up for their school holidays. This is supposed to be a time of excitement – eight weeks with nothing to think about other than playing endlessly with friends. The reality is, however, that for many children and families, there is only one thing playing on their minds with schools closed; food.”

“Today, we heard from health experts, educators and community and youth organisations on just how pervasive the issue of food poverty is for families they work with and how now, with schools closed, the risk of ‘holiday hunger’ increases. The crippling worry for parents and children becomes “where will the next hot meal come from?” 

In 2023, 4.2 per cent of children could not have a roast dinner once a week. This equates to just over 51,000 children and young people. Access to hot, nutritious food is a basic, fundamental need and is vital to a child’s development, from their physical health to their emotional wellbeing. The fact that we are seeing increased demand for food supports every holiday period is almost incomprehensible. No child should have to worry about where their next meal will come from. The cost-of-living crisis has compounded existing food poverty to a point where more and more families are being pushed below the breadline and parents are left facing the uphill battle of simply trying to provide for the daily essentials for their children. This issue is exacerbated for families experiencing complex challenges such as domestic violence or families living in homeless accommodation or the direct provision system. These living situations give rise to even further barriers to accessing and providing for food.”

Speaking to the need for investment in Budget 2025, Tanya Ward continued:

The Hot School Meals programme has been a lifeline to thousands of children across the country, whose parents often go without food themselves to ensure a dinner is on the table for their children. The positive impact extends beyond solely nutrition or physical development. We have heard today from those in education and community settings the improvement in children’s attendance at school, their academic outcomes and even behaviours as a result.”

The issue lies in the very simple fact that the need for nutritious food does not subside when school doors close. The demand we have seen for our holiday food provision schemes points to how serious this problem actually is. With the help of our donors and funders, over 6,000 children and over 3,400 families were supported by our members with food provision last Christmas. However, we know that for every family we were able to help, there were more in the same boat going without.”

The Children’s Rights Alliance is calling for the introduction of a pilot programme with funding of €1 million to explore how to leverage existing community infrastructures such as youth clubs, family resource centres and community organisations who are uniquely placed to reach and support children most in need.

Government now needs to step up to support organisations in tackling the issue long-term. Family and Youth organisations put every resource they have into helping children and families in need, but there is a cut-off point where the money runs out and it simply is not possible to reach everyone.”

“The Government has the opportunity in Budget 2025 to leverage the success of the Hot School Meals Programme so that children and young people get access to the food they need year-round. This provision may not be able to happen through schools during the holidays but there are existing mechanisms at community level, including those involved in today’s event, which are already in operation that are willing and ready to bridge this gap. An initiative in collaboration with these services that extends meal support outside of term time would not only be immensely beneficial, but it is a vital necessity in ensuring that children continue to receive the supports they need to grow and thrive.”


For media queries, contact Robyn Keleghan–0858001275 / [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

  • Children’s Rights Alliance spokespeople are available for interview
  • Hot School Meals Programme (26 June 2024) A total of 316, 046 children are eligible for hot school meals with 265, 423 children now benefitting from the scheme to date.
  • The latest SILC data set is available here.
    • In 2023, 4.2 per cent of children could not have a roast dinner once a week. This equates to just over 51,000 children and young people CSO, ‘SIA132 – Type of Deprivation Item Experienced’
    • 31,682 more children experiencing deprivation in 2023: The number of children experiencing enforced deprivation rose from 18.8.% in 2022 to 21.4% in 2023 meaning more than 1 in 5 children in Ireland experienced deprivation. (260,773children)
    • 26,809 less children living in consistent poverty in 2023: The number of children living in consistent poverty fell from 7% in 2022 to 4.8% which is largely due to the impact of the cost-of-living measures in 2023. However, it remains the highest of any age cohort. (58,491 children)
    • 4,874 less children at risk of poverty in 2023: The number of children at risk of poverty fell from 14.7 % in 2022 to 14.3% in 2023, the highest rate of any age cohort. (174,255 children)
  • The Children’s Rights Alliance Food Provision Scheme is funded by Community Foundation Ireland, and Lakeside Fund

About the Children’s Rights Alliance
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 150 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL #EndHolidayHunger

For media queries, please contact:

Emma Archbold

Campaigns and Communications Director