“Transformative power of Hot School Meals Scheme should be enjoyed by every child” -
Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes overarching recommendation for a universal school meals programme, with one free hot meal for every child in Ireland
Today (30.03.23), the Department of Social Protection published the Evaluation Report of the School Meals Scheme. Welcoming the publication of the report and its recommendations, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said;
“We are hugely hopeful with the news today that the Hot School Meals Scheme will be expanded. The programme ensures that children get at least one hot, nutritious meal a day. For some children, that may be the only hot meal they get that day. For other families, the benefits of the programme are felt beyond the school as it eases the financial burden that weighs down on parents, particularly in the cost-of-living crisis. The evaluation report highlights the important role that hot school meals play in reducing the level of food poverty among children and young people.”
“The transformative power of the provision of hot school meals is visible in the schools and early years settings currently availing of the scheme. These schools serve some of the most disadvantaged communities and through the scheme, teachers and families highlight the difference in children’s engagement in the classroom, improved behaviour and relationships with their peers and their teachers.”
“Another key recommendation in the report focuses on increasing the rates paid to the companies providing the food as part of the scheme. The rates have not increased since the scheme began in 2003 and this is critically important to retaining providers and importantly, retaining the quality of the food being provided to children.”
“Food poverty is an issue that is not confined to schools with DEIS status. We know half of all children living in poverty do not attend DEIS schools and that it is a problem that has impacted families the length and breadth of this country. The fact there are children today going to school or bed hungry is simply not right. Food poverty should be an issue confined to our history, but it is very real problem in our present” Tanya Ward continued. “We need political leadership on the issue and concrete actions to demonstrate this. The recommendations in the report recognise this and seek to expand the scheme beyond DEIS schools. The benefits of the scheme should be ones enjoyed by every child in the country and we wholeheartedly support the pledge proposed today to expand the Hot School Meals to every child by 2030.”
“The report shares the growing concern of the Children’s Rights Alliance and our members on the prevalence of ‘holiday hunger’. Schools are an effective access point to reach children most in need and we know for many families, they have been a lifeline during very difficult times, in providing food. This need does not stop when schools close for holiday periods. It is no surprise to see that all participants in this evaluation agreed that food provision during the holidays should be targeted to support children experiencing the highest levels of deprivation and we urge Government to explore cross-governmental efforts to address the issue, including expanding the current scheme to cover Christmas, Easter and Mid-Term.”
The Children’s Rights Alliance is calling for Budget 2024 to be a budget designed to end child poverty.
“Child poverty impacts every aspect of a child’s life. It is hugely welcome to see ambitious, long-term solutions put forward by the Government including the provision of free schoolbooks to primary schools and today’s announcement of plans to expand the provision of hot school meals to all DEIS schools by next year, and to every child by 2030. However, these measures are announced in the context of alarming high rates of child poverty and increased deprivation. With the opportunity to spearhead ambitious solutions with the new Child Poverty and Wellbeing Unit, it is critical that Budget 2024 provides the financial and personnel support for these plans to be implemented and delivered effectively,” concluded Tanya Ward.
For media queries, contact Emma Archbold: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0879971410
Notes to Editors:
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, is available for interview.
• The School Meals Scheme Evaluation Report is available here.
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About the Children’s Rights Alliance:
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 140 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: www.childrensrights.ie or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL #EndChildPoverty