Doherty calls for roll-out of free school meals
Speaking this morning Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Pearse Doherty described the fact that tens of thousands of schoolchildren in this state go to school hungry on a daily basis as "shameful" and urged the Minister for Education Mary Hanafin to immediately adopt Sinn Féin's policy of introducing a state-wide school breakfast and lunch programme to supply nutritious food free of charge to all schoolchildren.
The Donegal Senator said today, "The current provision of school meals is ad hoc and mainly funded by charities. Some schools can only provide breakfasts two or three days a week while others do not provide food whatsoever.
"This is an issue of food poverty and the government is abdicating its responsibilities and leaving it up to the charities to intervene. Combat poverty figures highlight the disturbing fact that 14 per cent of children in this state go to school on empty stomachs on a daily basis.
"There also needs to be a wholesale change in what our schoolchildren eat. Such a school breakfast and lunch programme, as proposed by Sinn Féin, would ensure that children eat healthy nutritious food daily instead of resorting to nutrient-poor and energy-dense food such as crisps, biscuits cakes and fizzy drinks. With a daily supply of such healthy food, children's attention and their ability to learn would increase significantly lending to a more positive schooling environment.
"In order to facilitate the breakfast and lunch programme schools must be properly resourced with sufficient numbers of catering assistants and no new school should be constructed without adequate kitchen and canteen facilities.
"It is interesting to note that while the Venezuelan government provides three daily school meals free of charge to school children in state schools, bankrolled by profits from their natural resources, this government stands idly by as thousands of schoolchildren go to school hungry each day while they give billions of euros of our natural resources away to multinationals like Shell and Statoil. This is a disgrace."