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35,000 more children to get hot meals at school thanks to €5.5m boost

It was announced in the Budget speech by the Finance Minister today.

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THE GOVERNMENT IS to extend the hot school meals pilot programme, at a cost of €5.5m.

The move will take place under Budget 2021.

Today’s Budget 2021 announcement was made by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath at the Convention Centre.

Included in the announcement is enhancing the school meals programme by providing hot school meals for up to 35,000 additional school children. 

This latest phase will be implemented in January 2021.

The pilot programme was introduced in 2019, and initially involved 36 primary schools, or over 6,600 pupils. Under the initiative, the pupils would get a hot meal every day at school. 

When it was announced, the then-Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, said that the initiative would be trialed in schools. 

Doherty said at the time:

A hot school meal is not just about nutrition but it also guarantees a better education. The research out there shows us that children who benefit from a daily nutritious hot dinner have greater focus and better learning outcomes.

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The pilot project announced was to build on the experience of the proof-of-concept project which ran at Our Lady of Lourdes National School in Goldenbridge, Inchicore, Dublin 8 from the beginning of 2019.

During this initial trial, almost 250 pupils attending the school received a hot meal at lunchtime each day and the initiative was “well received”. 

This latest move also comes after a high-profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford in the UK, who successfully campaigned for school meals to be extended there.  

The Budget has a focus on combating poverty, which also includes removing the earnings threshold on the One-Parent Family Payment, and increasing the weekly payments for low-income families with children.

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