Poverty: 78,000 children rely on school breakfast clubs for food

State funding for scheme has increased by over 50% in last school year

Poverty: 78,000 children rely on school breakfast clubs for food

File photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Some 78,0000 children have availed of state-funded breakfast clubs in Irish schools over the last year, according to new figures.

Around 700 clubs received a combined total of €7 million from the Department of Social Protection - a funding increase of over 50% on the previous school year.

The scheme, which is targeted at Deis schools, aims to fight malnourishment in disadvantaged areas.

Figures provided to Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath show the highest-funded counties in the 2015-16 year were Dublin (€2,429,819), Donegal (€562,117), Cork (€535,496) and Wexford (€344,147).

Call for increased spending

Mr McGrath said the level of demand represents “a disturbing barometer of child poverty levels”.

“The fact that there has been a particular focus on the promotion of breakfast clubs to provide very positive outcomes for vulnerable children in terms of their school attendance, punctuality and energy levels demonstrates the scale of the child poverty that exists,” he said.

“While it is certainly to be applauded that so many children have been enabled to receive a nutritious meal, it is also the case that many schools are not receiving adequate funding to meet the need that exists.

“I know this to be the case in a major town here in Tipperary, which, although it received €231,080 funding in 2015-16, still fell short.

“I would appeal to [Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar] to increase the existing spend so that we can ensure that absolutely no child need go hungry before the start of the school day.”