New programme to provide hot school meals to over 35,000 primary students launched

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189 schools, including 171 DEIS schools will be availing of the new plan.

AROUND 35,000 PRIMARY school students will now be able to receive hot lunches at school, as part of the Hot School Meals programme launched today.

189 schools, including 171 DEIS schools, will be availing of the new plan, which was announced by Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys this afternoon.

The hot lunch will replace the cold lunch which pupils had been receiving up until now. 

Speaking on the launch, Humphreys said that Ireland’s children have shown “extraordinary resilience” to the changes brought on by Covid-19 over the last 12 months.

“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,” said Humphreys

“From today, the Hot School Meals Programme will support 35,000 children in 189 schools in every city and county in the country.”

The scheme was originally launched as a pilot, with 37 schools taking part and 6,600 pupils receiving hot lunches daily.

Schools must source their own suppliers of meals, which will be prepared and delivered to schools in line with food safety regulations and must comply with Healthy Ireland’s “Nutrition Standards for Hot School Meals”.

As part of the scheme, schools must provide at least two different meal choices each day, alongside both a vegan/vegetarian option and one which caters to a pupil’s religious and cultural dietary requirements.

The Minister also confirmed that the broader School Meals Programme, which has 1,557 schools and organisations involved and provides lunch to over 227,000 children, will continue to operate over the Easter holidays.

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Research

Humphreys also published the “Research Report of the Hot Meals Pilot”, which was carried out by the Department of Social Protection in July 2020.

The research found that two-thirds of teachers and SNA’s said the pilot had had a positive impact on the child’s diet, that it reduced food waste and that the hot meals were better quality than what pupils were eating beforehand.

“This research has found that the Hot School Meals pilot project has had a very positive impact on children’s attendance at school, as well as their physical health and psychological wellbeing,” said Humphreys

Overall, the results were encouraging with the majority of parents, teachers and SNAs rating the hot meals as better quality than the food their students previously ate.

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