Pupils in more primary schools will benefit from hot school meals under an extended programme being rolled out from today.
A further 35,000 pupils in 189 schools, mainly in the DEIS scheme for disadvantaged communities, will be able to avail of a hot lunch.
The hot meal will replace the cold lunch which has been on offer in these schools to date.
Schools were invited to apply for the scheme and the 189, 171 of which are in Deis, selected reflect a geographical spread across all local authority areas.
The start date will vary forms school to school, depending on arrangements with suppliers.
The €5.5m extension of the hot meals programme followed a pilot project involving about 37 schools, with 6,500 pupils, which started in 2019.
Schools are expected to provide a choice of at least two different meals per day plus a vegetarian/vegan option, as well as an option that caters for pupils’ religious and cultural dietary requirements.
The strengths of the pilot scheme, including an overall high rating in terms of quality, choice, portion sizes, dietary requirements and nutritional value, are reported in an evaluation published today
Two thirds of teachers/special needs assistants (SNAs) said it had a positive impact on a child’s diet and three in five parents strongly agreed that their children enjoyed taking part.
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys also announced today that school meals will continue to be supplied over the Easter break .
Previously, funding for the School Meals Programme had been confined to the academic year, but since the pandemic it has continued through the school holidays to support families in need.
The hot meals scheme is part of the overall School Meals Programme, which provides funding towards the provision of food to 1,557 schools and organisations benefitting 227,000 children.
The objective of the programme 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.