Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD welcomes extension of schools meals
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has welcomed news that the Department of Education has committed to extending free school meals over the course of the summer.
Teachta Ó Laoghaire said;
“I want to welcome the news that the Department of Social Protection has agreed to extend school meals programme.
"For many years we have been calling for the extension of the school meals programme to support children's nutrition.
“'Holiday Hunger' impacts many children and families. With the School Meals Programme running only in the past on a school yearly basis, parents without the means to do so must find a way to provide lunches - and in some cases breakfast and dinner - normally given by the school, to their children during the summer holidays.
"The summer months should be a time of fun and enjoyment for children. They should be given the break from intensive education they deserve and have earned ample time and opportunity to experience the freedom to play, which is so vital to their development. Instead, faced with hunger and worry about where their next meal will come from, in the past parents and children have found the summer months harder.
"This is particularly the case in this time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, and when many families face challenging circumstances. I and my colleagues have written to the Minister seeking extension of this.
"I want to commend organisations such as Barnardos and Saint Vincent De Paul, the teachers unions and other opposition spokespersons such as Aodhán Ó Riordán in pushing for this over many years.
“But if we are serious about tackling nutritional issues facing school kids the forthcoming government must go much further now.
"Hot meals at school, common in many European countries. Every DEIS school should have access to hot meals with an objective of expanding it further. The budget is also very meagre, at around €10 per child per week compared to £15 in England or £19.50 in Wales.
"I welcome this step which is important, but if we want to tackle child hunger in our schools, good quality hot meals have to become a regular feature of our system, not simply the exception.
"I also want to commend the extraordinary work of schools, volunteers, including clubs and local businesses who have ensured meals are kept going at this time."