“Expansion of Hot School Meals Programme an Important Tool in Helping to Combat Food Poverty” – Minister Joe O’Brien
30th March, 2023
Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, Joe O’Brien has today confirmed the expansion of the Hot School Meals Programme to all DEIS schools by September of this year and a universal rollout by 2030 via a phased programme which will commence next year, including those in Fingal.
Last year, Minister O’Brien established a Working Group on Food Poverty. His Department is currently seeking tenders to carry out a new project aimed at tackling food poverty. This work will provide a case worker service in up to four regions nationally to work on an individual basis with people experiencing food poverty but also identify policy issues to ultimately address food poverty.
Announcing the programme, Joe O’Brien TD said:
“Today’s report confirms what I have been saying for quite some time – the Hot School Meals Programme is a crucial tool in not only helping to address food poverty but also increasing attendance and class participation among those students who receive a hot school meal. The Results of this evaluation found a high level of qualitative evidence that the provision of school meals resulted in improvements in attendance in school. The qualitative evidence collected suggests that providing children with food in school is making a difference to families, both in terms of money saved, and for some families, in time saved in food preparation. This is something I have seen time and again in my own constituency in Fingal.
“The report today also recommends an increase in the rate paid to providers of all school meal services – both hot and cold – which will help schools to further tailor the options available to children. It’s important to note that this increase will be backdated to 1st January 2023. I am confident that this and the expansion measures announced today will help move us towards the universal provision of Hot School Meals to every child in school. While recognising that food poverty is a multi-faceted and complicated issue I have no doubt that an expanded and enhanced Hot School Meals Programme will be a powerful tool in helping to support families experiencing food poverty.”
The School Meals Programme has an annual Budget of over €94 million. It supports over 1,600 schools and organisations nationwide and benefits over 260,000 children. Minister O’Brien’s comments came today with the publication of a review into the Hot School Meals Programme which found an overwhelming consensus among all participants in the evaluation that the School Meals Programme is effective and that there is strong support for extending the School Meals Programme.
Notes to Editors
Applications for Request for Tender for Food Poverty Research available at: Public RFT – RFT for the provision of case worker services by organisations involved in emergency food provision (eu-supply.com)