The Green Party today launched their ambitious School Dinners Policy, which would see at least one meal provided to every schoolchild during the school day. School meal programmes, common in other European countries, are already in operation across the countries 849 DEIS (Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools) Schools, serving approximately 200,000 children. The policy, which would cost in the region of €350 million per annum to implement, is aimed at tackling the dual problems of child obesity and food poverty, and end the situation where one in five children go to school hungry every day.
Speaking at the launch today, Cllr. Catherine Martin, Deputy Leader of the Green Party, described the policy as ambitious, realistic, and something that should be aspired to. “The Green Party’s School Dinners Policy received a fantastic reception when we sought feedback from teachers, headmasters, and parents alike. It’s strongly modelled on the Finnish system, which is consistently ranked as the best education system in the world. In Ireland in 2015, it’s unacceptable that 20% of our children are going to school hungry. We are facing a public health time-bomb if we don’t address the situation where 300,000 of our children are overweight or obese. This policy is ambitious, achievable and forward thinking.”
Seamus Sheridan, Green Party Spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, described the benefits that such programmes have shown in other European countries: “School meal programmes, when focused on health and well-being, have been shown to have dramatic positive affects in a number of areas. Addressing food poverty, a major contributor to obesity, has a knock-on effect on health spending, reducing the strain on the health service. Well-nourished children get sick less often. Studies have shown that a sit-down meal at school also contributes to better academic performance through improved concentration, better sports and PE performance, and even better behaviour among children. The School Dinners Policy would not make it mandatory for children to have a meal at school – it’s completely at the parents’ discretion, but it would offer the flexibility and security of knowing that there is a low cost, healthy, nutritious meal there for children, if needed.”
The full School Dinners Policy will be published on the Green Party website today.