Unlike other countries there is not a comprehensive school meals programme in the Republic of Ireland, entitling ALL school children to a school dinner, either free or paid for.
By caring for the nation’s children and providing healthy, nutritious school meals, the State would make an important investment in the future. The effective provision of school dinners has long-term consequences, not just in terms of the social and economic benefits and the health of the individual, but in fostering the ethos of a caring and just society, where the State acts for the common good.
Funding of the programme would be from government income -, i.e. tax revenues, other sources of revenue and a small contribution from all parents not in receipt of State benefits.
A statutory obligation on local authorities to provide a school dinner scheme in their area.
Possible extension of the school day to give children enough time to have a proper ‘sit-down’ meal and have time to relax and play afterwards. This may be of particular benefit for parents working outside the home.
Food sourced food from local farmers where possible, encouraging less dependency on imports of foodstuff and the reduction of food mileage.
Food provided by schools is to be prepared daily using fresh local produce and include vegetarian and vegan options, as well as foods from different ethnic cultures. Menus should be well-balanced and sensitive to the traditions of different cultures and their proscriptions on certain foods, such as pork and beef. Children would also receive water and milk.
If schools did not have their own kitchens, school meals could be prepared and cooked in central facilities approved of by local authorities and schools. School meals could be transported from a central kitchen to school halls and canteens. Where necessary school halls would eventually have to be built to be used as canteens for midday meals.
Staff employed in schools to supervise or serve meals would receive training. Teachers would not be school dinner supervisors.
Teachers would also be able to avail of a school dinner.
Parents would be entitled to allow their children to continue having a packed lunch instead of a school dinner if they preferred.