Schools Showing Strong Appetite for Hot School Meals Project

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Schools Showing Strong Appetite for Hot School Meals Project

Pilot Running in 36 Schools since Last September  

Monday, 13 January, 2020

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, T.D., and Social Protection today welcomed strong positive feedback from the 36 primary schools that were selected to pilot her Department’s Hot School Meals Scheme Project, an initiative to provide a hot meal to primary school children on a pilot basis from September.  The Minister will be providing an update on the scheme at the next cabinet meeting.

Officials from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection visited participant schools between October and December 2019. The officials’ subsequent report states:

In general the response to the Pilot from teachers, parents and pupils has been very
positive. Benefits claimed include increased social skills through eating together and
involvement by older pupils in distributing meals, the opportunity to try new foods, a
change in eating habits from fast and unhealthy foods, guarantee of a hot meal
during the day. Suppliers whether national or local were credited with helping in the
smooth roll-out of the Pilot, displaying flexibility and consultation in their approach.
Likewise, Principals paid tribute to their teaching staff.”

Amongst other things, the report also observed that:

  • Menu choices are extensive with local suppliers working closely with each school on menu choices and providing proven, popular dishes;
  • Water is the main drink of choice and is either supplied by the caterer, is available in the school or brought in by the children
  • All schools visited were Green Schools and so were exercised by the consequences of an increase in waste - in 18 schools, the caterer has agreed to take responsibility for waste, by either collecting it or providing extra capacity to the school; in 14 schools the school itself takes responsibility for waste disposal and in 4 schools waste is sent home with the pupils.
  • Efforts to reduce waste include the use of stainless cutlery, compostable and recyclable packaging.

 Today, Minister Doherty said:

“I am delighted to see that the first indications from this pilot project are so positive – demonstrating that a hot school meal is not just nutritious but also guarantees a better education. I would like to thank all the schools who are participating in this pilot and the insights we continue to gather from their experiences will help inform future policy in this area. I, for one, would be keen to expand the scheme as far as possible and I look forward to the final assessment of the pilot programme.”

The pilot scheme for hot school dinners was announced by Minister Doherty during Budget 2019 and the initiative was subsequently trialled in up to 36 schools (serving over 6,600 children) from September 2019. This pilot project was built on the experience of the proof-of-concept project which has been running at Our Lady of Lourdes National School in Inchicore, Dublin 8 since the beginning of 2019.  During that initial trial, almost 250 pupils attending the school received a hot meal at lunchtime each day and the initiative was also very well received there.   

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Last modified:13/01/2020