School Meals Expansion Welcome but more needs to be done – Nolan
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Education and Skills Carol Nolan has today welcomed the expansion of the school meals programme but has said that more funding is required to ensure that the programme meets the needs of children.
Teachta Nolan said:
“I welcome the announcement of €3 million in additional funding for the school meals programme from September this year. Sinn Féin has consistently called for additional funding for this scheme.
“However, €1.5 million of this is to provide school meals to the new DEIS schools announced by the Minister in recent weeks and given the fact that there has been a moratorium on new DEIS schools since 2009, arguably the Minister is playing catch up and these schools should have been in receipt of school meals funding much sooner.
“As we know, the levels of consistent child poverty rates have risen in Ireland from 6.3% in 2008 to 11.5% in 2015. Initiatives such as the school meals programme play an important part in tackling the effects of child poverty.
“Currently, the school meals programme provides only 90% of the funding for school lunches in some circumstances and I am aware of schools that will run out of money before the school year for the programme.
“Clearly, the level of funding for the school meals programme is not adequate, given the prevalence of educational disadvantage that currently exists.
“I am aware of a number of schools that cannot understand why they have not been included in the DEIS scheme, given the levels of disadvantage reported in their schools.
“I know a number of these schools have applied in recent years for funding for school meals and have been refused, as the funding was sufficient to primarily cover those with DEIS status only, meaning these schools have effectively lost out twice.
“In our Alternative Budget, Sinn Féin provided for a 40% increase in the programme, which would help meet the demand and ensure that no child is forced to sit in a classroom, trying to learn, with an empty stomach.”