Minister Humphreys 'absolutely determined' to expand school meals programme
A planned evaluation examining the expansion of the School Meals Programme has been announced by the Minister for Social Protection.
The programme, which currently supports approximately 1,500 schools at a cost of €65million - comes in a number of forms including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, cold meals and hot meals.
News of the upcoming evaluation was announced today (Wednesday April 6) by Minister Heather Humphreys TD, who said she was "absolutely determined" to continue the programme's expansion.
Speaking at a visit to Scoil Treasa Naofa primary school in Dublin, she said, "I am delighted that my Department is able to support over 230,000 children nationwide through the School Meals Programme.
"Before we make any dramatic changes [sic], 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.
"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."
According to the minister, anecdotal evidence from teachers and parents points to students preferring the hot meal option.
She said, "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."
Key stakeholders including schools and child representative groups will be consulted as part of the evaluation.
Whether or not the programme is meeting its aims will also be examined, as well as the practicalities for schools of moving to a hot meals option, ways the programme can be better delivered, and to what extent the programme has improved school attendance and educational achievement.
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