47,000 more children to get school meals

245 schools will either join the scheme or see breakfast / lunch services expanded

47,000 more children to get school meals

File photo. Photo: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

The Government has announced an expansion of the school meals scheme.

An extra €3 million is being provided from September.

It will see a total of 245 schools around the country either join the scheme, or see their breakfast / lunch schemes expanded.

Ministers say around 47,000 extra children will benefit.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said the programme makes a real difference, and that early intervention "is more effective and less costly in the long-run".

He explained: "Up until now, the school meals programme has focused on schools in disadvantages areas. That will continue to be the case with the expansion we are announcing today.

"However, most disadvantaged children do not attend designated schools. So that's why I want to extend school breakfasts to all schools that want it over the next decade.”

Education Minister Richard Bruton added: "Every child has to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their circumstances. Education has a unique capacity to break down the cycles of disadvantage."

Budget 2017 set aside €47.7 million for the school meals scheme, which currently benefits 200,000 children.

International research has highlighted the benefits of a school meal schemes and clubs.

A UK study published late last year showed strong improvements in writing, reading and maths when free breakfast was provided before class, The Guardian reported.

Healthy school meals can also work towards reducing childhood obesity, with a University College London study last year suggesting skipping breakfast is a key factor in predicting whether a child will become overweight or obese.