The Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD, has announced that a comprehensive evaluation is to be undertaken of the School Meals Programme.
The Minister made the announcement on a visit to Scoil Treasa Naofa Primary School, Donore Avenue, Dublin 8.
The Programme has an annual budget of over €65 million. This supports over 1,500 schools and organisations nationwide and benefits over 230,000 children.
RSM Ireland has been appointed by the Department of Social Protection to conduct the evaluation of the School Meals Programme with recommendations to be provided for the Minister and her Department to consider as part of Budget 2023.
Announcing details of the evaluation, Minister Humphreys said, “I am delighted that my Department is able to support over 230,000 children nationwide through the School Meals Programme. The School Meals Programme comes in a number of different shapes and forms including Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Cold Meals and Hot Meals. The Hot School Meals in particular has proven hugely popular and I am pleased to have increased the number of schools receiving Hot School Meals ten-fold since I became Minister, from a small pilot of just 30 schools to almost 300.”
“The feedback I am getting anecdotally from teachers and parents is that children prefer the Hot School Meals to the cold option. I know from my own experience that a child is more likely to sit down and eat a good hot meal whereas a cold sandwich can always be shoved into the bottom of the school bag. Given the huge positivity towards the Hot School Meals Programme, I now want to examine the option of expanding it so that more students can benefit.”
Key issues to be explored as part of the evaluation include:
- Is the School Meals Programme meeting its aims
- What are the practicalities for schools of moving to a Hot School Meals option
- What works well and what is not working well
- How can the programme be better delivered
- The extent to which the School Meals Programme has improved school attendance and educational achievement
- How the scheme compares with programmes in other countries
- What might the implications be of extending the scheme
- What are the implications of the EU Child Guarantee for the School Meals Programme
The Minister added, “I am delighted to be here at Scoil Treasa Naofa Primary School to see the pupils receive their hot school meals. It was great to hear from the Principal, Ms Spillane, about how the hot meals appeals to the pupils and ensures that they benefit from warm and nutritious food, helping them to concentrate better at school while also enjoying the social interaction with their fellow pupils. There are 181 pupils in Scoil Treasa Naofa enjoying and benefitting from these hot meals every school-day.”
“Before we make any dramatic changes to the programme, I want to hear directly from Schools like here at Scoil Treasa and also from the various Children’s Representative Groups on what their views are on how we can improve the programme and ensure that it is delivering maximum benefit for children. As Minister, I am absolutely determined to continue to expand the School Meals Programme. This comprehensive evaluation will equip my Department with the information and data we need so that we can continue to grow and support more children under this important programme.”