Local TD for Dublin Mid West has welcomed news that the Department of Education has committed to extending free school meals over the course of the summer. Deputy Ward had written to the Minister and asked for an extension for this vital service.
Teachta Ward 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 normally running during a school terms, 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’’ “I grew up in an area of social deprivation and high unemployment and I remember not only looking forward to my school lunch but also relying on it. We used to really look forward to Fridays when we got a currant bun””
“The summer months should be a time of fun and enjoyment for children. They should be given the break from the intensive education they deserve and the 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 some parents and children find the summer months harder.’’ “This is has increased because of Covid during this time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, with many families face challenging circumstances. This is why I wrote directly to the minister to extend the programme’’ “I want to commend organisations such as Barnardos and Saint Vincent De Paul, and the teachers who have been 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 and volunteers in my local area who kept the meals going during the school closures. The provision of School meals in the form of weekly food parcels was a great example of community collaboration during this pandemic”