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School meals programme to be extended this summer due to impact of Covid-19 pandemic

The funding is normally not available during the summer.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

FUNDING FOR THE School Meals Programme is set to continue through the summer holidays this year, the Minister for Social Protection has announced.

Heather Humphreys said that the extension of the programme will ensure that thousands of primary and secondary school children from every county will receive “a healthy and nutritious meal every day”.

The programme is normally only available during the school year, but an exception has been made this summer due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The School Meals Programme is a vital support for children and their parents,” Humphreys told reporters at St Daigh’s National School in Inniskeen, Co Monaghan. 

“Extending the funding for the School Meals Programme during school closures over the past twelve months has provided certainty and security to the pupils, during what I know has been a very difficult time during a very unusual school year.”

The minster said that some meals and packs will be delivered to the homes of children and that some will also collect the food at the school.

She said that the Department of Social Protection is currently contacting schools involved in the programme to advise them that it will continue the programme throughout the summer period. 

The government is providing over €65 million to fund the School Meals Programme this year, which benefits 1,506 schools and organisations and about 230,000 children.

In total, €118 million in funding is being provided across three schemes in support of school students and their families.

The other two schemes are the Department of Education’s School Based Summer Education Programme and the Department of Social Protection’s Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance scheme 2021.

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The School Meals Programme will provide breakfast and lunch to schools participating in the School Based Summer Education Programme. This was introduced as a Covid-19 response measure for pupils with complex special educational needs and other pupils who are at risk of education disadvantage. 

Applications also open today for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance scheme 2021. This scheme provides once-off payments for eligible families.

An allowance of €150 is paid for each child aged 4-11 on or before 30 September, and €275 is paid for each student aged 12-22 on or before 30 September.

Humphreys said that this allowance will benefit 111,000 families, affecting 204,000 children. €53.5 million is being provided in funding as part of this programme. 

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