School meals must be junk-free zones under new rules
Foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar will no longer be paid for under the State's school meals programme.
Breakfast clubs, school lunches and snacks, afterschool clubs and school dinners will have to be junk-free zones from now on, according to new guidelines issued today.
Around 250,000 school pupils, many from disadvantaged areas, receive school meals. This costs around €50m a year.
However, in a new drive to tackle obesity Health Minister Simon Harris, Education Minister Richard Bruton and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty will announce a crackdown on meals that are high in calories and low in nutrition.
The introduction of the new nutrition standards means only healthy food choices that meet the revised standards will be funded for breakfast clubs, school lunches and snacks, after-school clubs and school dinners, said a spokeswoman for the Department of Health last night.
The meals programme gives priority to children from low-income backgrounds and DEIS schools in particular.
According to the guidelines, children should be given healthy and balanced choices for each meal or snack, which reflect the revised food pyramid.
It also says that milk and water are the best drinks to serve to children.
Currently the funding is based on a rate of payment per meal, per child for each day. The Department of Social Protection, which funds the meals, suggests the menus.
Schools get 60c per child for a breakfast of cereal, toast, scone fruit, yogurt or milk. Two items must be provided.
The allocation for lunch is €1.40 and this can include a filled sandwich, or soup and roll, or salad plus milk, fruit and a yogurt.
Dinner allowance is €1.90 per child a day and this can include meat, potatoes and vegetables, chicken curry or spaghetti bolognese. Children must also be offered milk or water with their meal.