"More Money Being Pumped Into School Meals Scheme, But Fewer Schools Receiving Meals" - Tóibín
The Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has called for an increased spend and evaluation of spending on the School Meals Scheme, after statistics reveal that while the funding is increasing year on year, the number of schools availing of the scheme have been reducing.
Speaking in the Dáil this week, Deputy Tóibín said:
"The amount of money being allocated to the school meals programme has been increasing year on year. That sounds like a good thing, but when one examines the situation, the number of schools availing of the programme has been reducing. This means that a small number of children are getting those school meals. It could be because of an increase in the cost of the programme, etc. We very properly debate in the House the cost of living increasing throughout the State. There is an issue with inflation in the inputs into school meals, meaning that more money goes less distance towards meeting the needs of young children in those schools".
Mr Tóibín continued: "We are seeing a greater need for this service now. Families are being squeezed by the cost of living. Throughout Ireland today, there are young children going to sleep hungry. This has a significant effect on many aspects of their lives, not just their physical growth, but also their mental health and their ability to participate in education. What we need is a commitment from the Government that not only will the amount of money invested in the programme increase, but the number of children and schools availing of it will also increase"
"For more than a year, the Meath food bank was operating out of my office in Trim because it was without any other location from which to operate. It was shockingly sad to see young children and their parents queuing daily outside the Aontú office in Trim for food. The fact that food banks even exist in Ireland in today's world is incredible. Many of them sprung up during the previous economic crash. They did not go away and have been functioning ever since. In many cases, they will say that they are busier than ever. We must deal with the cost of living crisis for everyone, but we need to prioritise certain sections of society, one of which must surely be children living in poverty. There are a significant number of children living in poverty. Judging from the numbers that the Minister has provided me with, it is clear that the money going into the programme is increasing. While that is welcome, the number of schools covered by its schemes has not increased to the same level. We need to get to a higher level of reach in order to ensure that no child in this country goes to bed hungry anymore, and this is something Aontú will campaign strongly for throughout this economic crisis", concluded Deputy Tóibín.
Year / Number of Schools / Funding Allocation
2017 - 1,774 schools, 47.5 million euro
2018 - 1,768 schools, 54 million euro
2019 - 1,771 schools, 57.6 million euro.
2020 - 1,781 schools, 61.6 million euro.
2021 - 1,640 schools, 65.1 million euro
2022 - ---------------- 68.1 million euro.
For Priority Answer on : 22/03/2022
Question Number(s): 4 Question Reference(s): 15139/22
Department: Social Protection
Asked by: Peadar Tóibín T.D.
To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of schools participating in the schools meals scheme in each of the years 2017 to 2021 and to date in 2022; and the total amount of funding made available for the scheme per year.
The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,506 schools and organisations benefitting 230,000 children. The objective of the programme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and educational achievement.
The programme provides funding towards food services for children in disadvantaged schools through two schemes: The Urban School Meals Scheme and the School Meals (Local Projects) Scheme.
The Urban School Meals Scheme for primary schools is operated and administered by local authorities and is part-financed by my Department. 311 schools were part-financed in 2017, 307 schools in 2018, 305 schools in 2019, 301 schools in 2020 and 279 schools in 2021.
The School Meals Local Projects scheme is financed by my Department. 1,463 schools and organisations received funding in 2017/2018, 1,461 receiving funding in 2018/2019, 1,466 received funding in 2019/2020, 1,480 received funding in 2020/2021 and 1,361 received funding to date for 2021/2022.
The total amount of funding made available for the scheme for 2017 was €47.5m, for 2018 was €54m, for 2019 was €57.6m, for 2020 was €61.6m, for 2021 was €65.1m, and for 2022 €68.1m is available.
I am committed to continuing to grow the school meals programme, in particular the hot school meals element and building further on the significant extension announced as part of Budget 2022.