Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has today called for a ban on vending machines selling sugary drinks to be implemented in schools to reduce health risks for young people. He criticised Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s refusal to act on the matter, blaming the chronic underfunding of schools on the use of vending machines to generate income.
Deputy O’Brien said:
“Schools are paid between €3,500 and €4,000 a year per vending machine on their premises. This is a significant amount of income for any school that is underfunded by the Department of Education. While schools recognise that sugary drinks are not beneficial to the wellbeing of their students, it seems that the need for increased funding has led to this unfavourable situation.
"Schools cannot be blamed for trying to make the best of a bad situation when they are strapped for resources and presented with a relatively easy source of funds following years of cutbacks.
“The Minister must ensure that vending machines selling unhealthy foods are banned and that, in their place, schools receive adequate funding to both educate students about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and to provide healthy food options at lunch time.
“A healthy and balanced lifestyle is key to the growth and learning capabilities of children and young people and must be a priority for schools and the Department of Education alike.
“I urge the Minister to reconsider her position and to implement a ban on sugary drinks in schools to reduce health risks among our young people.”