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Call to Increase School Meals Programme

healthy breakfast with bowl of cereal

A new study by Kellogg’s has revealed that children from lower income families are going to school hungry.  The study found that one in five families have had to cut back on food due to their lack of finances and this finding has been reinforced by over three quarters of primary school teachers who have said that the number of children coming to school hungry has increased in the past year. Food poverty among children in Ireland was discussed at the College of Anesthetists recently in Dublin.  The conference want the Department of Education to provide a payment of €500,000 in 2016 to ensure that underprivileged schools will be able to provide meals for children who are being affected by food poverty. They also want the government to invest €2.5 million over a period of five years in Community Food Initiatives to provide a scheme in every county to ensure that children are receiving enough food.

Sinead Keenan, Healthy Food for All’s Project Co-ordinator, said, “The Government is providing almost €40 million this year under the School Meals Programme to 850 DEIS schools. Such a strategy must involve all the relevant Government Departments and state agencies and be developed in partnership with the food and farming industries, consumer groups, the community and voluntary sector, international organisations, business and the public.”

Unfortunately over 100 schools will not be able to provide this scheme because they don’t have the finances available, and they don’t have a canteen or trained cook to serve the meals.

Norah Gibbons, Chairperson of Tusla – the Child and Family Agency, said that children who are coming to school hungry have lapses in their concentration and are often tired.  Breakfast clubs before school are beneficial to prevent this problem from arising.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy at Barnardos, said she sees parents who are struggling financially often go hungry themselves, in order to be able to feed their child.  Kellogg’s will be donating two million servings of cereal to children and families in Ireland through their partnerships with Barnardos and Crosscare.

Jim McNeill, Managing Director of Kellogg’s in Ireland, said that Kellogg’s will help in any way it can in order to prevent the food poverty problem here in Ireland.  Kellogg’s have 120 breakfast clubs around Ireland and that will continue to develop. They said that they will do their best to ensure that children don’t go to school hungry.

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