The new standards mean only healthy food choices will be funded
A new nutrition standards programme has been launched for the State’s school meals.
This is to ensure any school food prgramme follows the national Healthy Eating Guidelines.
The new nutrition standards mean only healthy food choices that meet the standards will be funded for breakfast clubs, school lunches and snacks, afterschool clubs and school dinners.
The School Meals programme, which has a budget of almost €50m, benefits almost 250,000 children across Ireland.
Priority is given to those schools in the DEIS programme.
The standards say certain foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar should be not be offered to children and will not be funded.
They also emphasise that milk and water are the best drinks to serve children.
Examples of foods to be provided for breakfast include cereal, fruit, toast and yogurt.
While for dinner, items like meat, potatoes, and vegetables will be served. Examples given are chicken curry and spaghetti bolognaise.
An example of after-school foods includes bread, meat, vegetables and fruit.
Speaking at the launch, Health Minister Simon Harris said: "Good nutrition for children and ensuring they are given healthy foods is a key priority for me and the Department of Health.
"This is important for maintaining a healthy weight for children, as well as supporting healthy growth and development.
"These new standards will ensure the provision of regular and nutritious food to all the children who benefit from this very important scheme and will make a major contribution towards their lifelong health.
Education Minister Richard Bruton added: "I am delighted to welcome these new Healthy Eating Standards.
"I believe they will enhance the current School Meals Programme, which we as a Government expanded this year to an extra 245 schools, including a further 47,000 students."
The new standards were developed by the Department of Health with the assistance of safefood and the Health Service Executive (HSE), in cooperation with the members of the School Meals Programme in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department of Education and Skills.