Educational Disadvantage Centre

National Strategy Group for Hunger Prevention in Schools

ABOUT US: 

The National Strategy Group for Hunger Prevention in Schools established by the Educational Disadvantage Centre in 2013 is composed of the following organisations:

Barnardos; Focus Ireland, FORSA, INTO, Irish Primary Principals Network, National Parents Council Primary, as well as DCU's Educational Disadvantage Centre

Children going hungry in Irish schools impacts upon their well-being, concentration and attention levels, learning and motivation, as well as heightening risk of aggressive behaviour in class and with peers*. A systematic national strategy to prevent hunger in school is not currently in place. Current initiatives include the School Meals Programme funded by the Department of Social Protection and Breakfast Clubs facilitated by School Completion Programme through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Yet these are not systematically available for all children in need. Not every School Completion Programme includes breakfast clubs and school participation in the School Meals Programme is varied and requires a school principal to apply to be part of it. Unlike countries such as Britain, France and Poland, Irish schools have poor infrastructure for meals in schools, with little investment historically in kitchen facilities in schools.

To overcome the fragmentation of strategy and policy in this area to date in Ireland, there is a real need for one State body to be responsible for developing the strategy, implementation and monitoring of this hunger prevention/healthy eating in schools/school kitchens strategy. While more than one kind of local agency may have the named, specific responsibility for delivering high quality food and cooking activities onsite in school, any such local agency must be firmly rooted in a national strategic response reporting to the one State body with overall responsibility for this area.

It needs to be recognised that two distinct spaces are needed in schools, one for cooking and one as a space for eating, both of which meet required hygiene standards. A dual system may need to be put in place at least initially, where some schools with kitchens would have the food cooked and prepared on the school premises, whereas other schools would receive food externally cooked and transported to the schools.

State commitment to an infrastructure dimension to this strategy, to build kitchens in schools and provide adequate staffing levels, would clearly be required. This would involve a phased roll-out of kitchens in schools, starting with priority of need but ultimately envisaged as a universal programme so that kitchens in schools would be as natural a part of the school building as a PE hall, parents room or computer room.

The issue of adequate time in the school day for eating such hot lunches needs to be addressed. While this may be tailored to individual needs of schools, administratively the easiest time for such hot food may be immediately after the school day, as an afterschool dimension.

A curricular dimension to avail of kitchens in schools is another important aspect of such a strategy. Food can be a resource integrated across areas such as maths, science and sphe. Moreover, it can offer a vital bridge to cultural expression of ethnic minorities, to involve such parents further in the school.

*Background data

Based on data collected in 2010 from 12,661 10-17 year olds in Ireland from randomly selected schools throughout the country (Callaghan et al. 2010), 20.9% of schoolchildren in Ireland  report going to school or bed hungry because there is not enough food at home. This figure represents a slight increase from 16.6% in 2006. More boys (22.4%) report that they go to school or bed hungry than girls (19.3%). More children in the 10-11 year old age group report going to school or bed hungry at 26.8%, which is an increase from 18.3% in 2006. Children who report going to school or bed hungry are more likely to report having bullied others. These figures are of serious concern. However, they are likely to be an underestimate of the current situation as the effects of austerity budgets have come into force. A 2013 IPPN survey of over 600 primary school principals found that over 20% of primary principals observed an increase in children coming to school hungry.

MINISTER HUMPHREYS LAUNCHES HOT SCHOOL MEALS PROGRAMME 2021: RECORD 35,000 STUDENTS TO BENEFIT

Department of Social Protection. March 25th 2021. Read Press Release here

35,000 MORE CHILDREN TO GET HOT MEALS AT SCHOOL THANKS TO €5.5M BOOST

The Journal.ie   Wednesday 14th October 2020

The government is to extend the hot school meals pilot programme, at a cost of €5.5m. READ MORE

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: NEW DÁIL MUST TRY TO ELIMINATE CHILD POVERTY

Irish Examiner, Thursday 20th February 2020

On this, the United Nations’ (UN) World Day of Social Justice, it is imperative that we take action to tackle poverty, social and economic exclusion and unemployment.  READ MORE

FREE HOT MEALS FOR 35,000 MORE SCHOOL CHILDREN FROM SEPTEMBER

Irish Times Monday January 13th 2020    

Pilot shows hot food ‘not just nutritious’ but guarantees better education, Minister says.  Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty wants all primary school children, regardless of income bracket, to eventually get a hot meal daily at school, writes Kitty Holland. READ MORE

HOT SCHOOL MEALS SHOULD BE A ROUTINE FACT OF IRISH LIFE

Irish Times, Saturday October 12th 2019    

Patchiness of Government scheme shows up the extent of food extremes that coexist here, writes Diarmaid Ferriter. READ MORE

IRISH TIMES INTERVIEW WITH PAUL DOWNES: HOT MEALS IN SCHOOLS FOR HUNGER PREVENTION.   Irish Times, Saturday September 14th 2019 

HOT SCHOOL MEALS FOR ALL A SOLID START IN BATTLE AGAINST CHILD POVERTY

Irish Times, Saturday September 14th 2019

We trail our European cousins when it comes to providing nourishment to school children.   It was heralded as a long-overdue opportunity to help children and struggling families. A Government-funded pilot scheme to provide hot meals to school children was supposed to bring Ireland into line with other European countries.  But records released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Department of Social Protection turned down 470 primary schools who applied to the scheme. While 36 will benefit from the move, campaigners say that free hot meals in schools should be more widely available, writes Peter McGuire. READ MORE

 SCHOOLS ‘MUST PLAY BIGGER ROLE IN TACKLING HUNGER AND INADEQUATE SLEEP’

Irish Examiner, Thursday September 2nd 2017    

Issues such as tackling inadequate sleep and hunger need to play a bigger role in how Irish schools combat disadvantage, according to the author of a European Commission report.  Paul Downes, director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre at Dublin City University (DCU), has also called for teams to provide community-based services in and around schools tailored to young people and their parents, writes Niall Murray. READ MORE 

PUPILS IN POOR AREAS MISS OUT ON FREE SCHOOL MEALS

Irish Independent, April 15th 2015

More than 100 schools serving the most disadvantaged communities cannot avail of a programme to serve food to pupils in need because they lack the necessary facilities and personnel.    One in five children go to school or bed hungry, and the Government is providing almost €40m this year for the School Meals Programme in a bid to help tackle the problem, writes Katherine Donnelly. READ MORE  

 PUPILS STRUGGLING WITH HUNGER AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS IN CLASSROOM

Irish Independent, December 1st 2009

SOME pupils are coming to school hungry while a sizeable number are suffering from emotional and sleep problems, research shows.  But poverty is only one reason for the lack of food, according to the research project. In some cases, poor sleeping patterns and anxiety were to blame, while anorexia was a possible factor for girls.  Dr Paul Downes, of St Patrick's College of Education in Drumcondra, Dublin, was involved in research in a number of disadvantaged schools where, on average, 10pc of first-year pupils were not getting enough food to function effectively in class, writes John Walshe. READ MORE 

POOR SCHOOLWORK LINKED TO HUNGER IN DUBLIN STUDY

Irish Times, Saturday December 9th 2006

Almost 20 per cent of children attending primary schools in one of the most disadvantaged areas of the State are either often or very often "too hungry" to do their schoolwork, a study on early school leaving has found, writes Kitty Holland. READ MORE  

INVITED PRESENTATION TO MINISTER FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH AFFAIRS, KATHERINE ZAPPONE, SENIOR CHILDREN’S MINISTRY AND DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SKILLS OFFICIALS & SENIOR TUSLA (NATIONAL CHILD AND FAMILY AGENCY) OFFICIALS. FARMLEIGH, THE OFFICIAL IRISH STATE GUEST HOUSE, JAN 29, 2018.    Dr Downes' presentation, School Completion Programme Strategy before Structures: What is the Strategic Vision for SCP can be accessed HERE

DR PAUL DOWNES’ INVITED PRESENTATION TO THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH AFFAIRS’ NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL NOVEMBER 22nd 2017  Better Outcomes Brighter Futures and the National Education Welfare Service: The Strategic Drift Regarding Poverty and Social Inclusion, including Emotional Counselling Supports 

 SUBMISSION BY DR PAUL DOWNES, CALL FOR CONSULTATION DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SKILLS.  STATEMENT OF STRATEGY 2016-2018

POSITION STATEMENT OF HUNGER PREVENTION IN SCHOOLS WORKING GROUP 

FOCUS IRELAND SUBMISSION ON STATEMENT OF STRATEGY 2016-2018 DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION JUNE 2016   

 JOINT OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND SOCIAL PROTECTION    

Two members of the Hunger Prevention in Schools Group, established by the Educational Disadvantage Centre, Padraig McCaba (IPPN) and Sinead Keenan (Healthy Food for All) gave a presentation on this issue to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection on December 16, 2015. 

You can access the IPPN presentation here

You can access Sinead Keenan's discussion here

Please see The Irish Times coverage of this event here 

A REVIEW OF DEIS:  INTO AND EDC CONFERENCE    

Sinead Keenan, Project Coordinator at Healthy Food for All conducted a workshop on a Hunger Prevention in Schools Strategy at the INTO/EDC joint conference, A Review of DEIS on Saturday December 5th 2015. Her presentation can be accessed here 

DÁIL QUESTION FROM JONATHAN O'BRIEN (CORK NORTH CENTRAL, SINN FEIN)   Wednesday December 9th 2015 

A PLAN TO END POVERTY AMONG CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE  Tuesday December 8th 2015

Together with Start Strong and National Youth Council of Ireland, The Children’s Rights Alliance launched their plan to end child and youth poverty, for which they are advocating in the next Programme for Government.  Click here to access this document 

ERADICATING FOOD POVERTY AMONG CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE IN IRELAND   

Healthy Food for All’s National Conference on Eradicating Food Poverty among Children and Young People in Ireland took place on 15 April 2015 in Dublin, #foodpovconf. The conference heard that food poverty is on the rise in Ireland with over 600,000 people now experiencing the problem. Policymakers and practitioners alike highlighted the need for a National Strategy on Food to ensure the affordability, accessibility and availability of healthy food for children and young people in Ireland.

LAUNCH OF REPORT    

Healthy Food for All: Developing Breakfast Clubs: A policy report to improve the health and social wellbeing of children report was launched by Joan Burton in September 2014 

MEETINGS WITH POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES    

On Wednesday December 17th, 2014, Aine Lynch, Gerry Murphy, Sinead Keenan and Paul Downes had meetings with the Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue and the Sinn Féin, Education Spokesperson, Jonathan O'Brien in Leinster House to discuss the Group's Hunger Prevention in School Document to advocate for the development of a National Strategy for Hunger Prevention in School.

Closing remarks at the IPPN Conference Thursday 24th January 2013, by Gerry Murphy, a member of the National Strategy for Hunger Prevention in Schools Working Group

GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS CONTINUED FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS MEALS PROGRAMME

Gov.ie   Thursday March 26th 2020

Government has today (Thursday 26 March 2020) issued schools with updated guidance to help them operate the School Meals Programme amid the extended COVID-19 restrictions. 

From: Department of Education and Skills. READ MORE

CORONAVIRUS: MEET THE TEACHER DELIVERING SCHOOL MEALS TO PUPILS BY BUS

Irish Times Thursday March 26th 2020

School closures mean many disadvantaged children are unable to get lunch and dinner. While many teachers are giving remote classes online during the school closures, one teacher is delivering something even more important: meals for pupils in disadvantaged homes.   Síle McDonnell, a teacher and home school community liaison with St Mary’s Primary School, Dorset Street in Dublin’s north inner city, works with the vulnerable families in her school, writes Michelle McBride and Carl O'Brien. READ MORE

GOVERNMENT EXAMINING HOW TO CONTINUE WITH MEALS FOR VULNERABLE CHILDREN DURING SCHOOL CLOSURE

The Journal, March 19th 2020

The Minister for Education acknowledged that many children rely on programmes such as the breakfast club at their schools. The government is examining how it can continue with its school meals programmes for vulnerable children while schools across the country are closed, writes Michelle Hennessy. READ MORE

NO-DEAL BREXIT WILL HIT POOR ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER FIRST AND HARDEST

Irish Times, Monday September 2nd 2019

In 2011 there was just one food bank in Northern Ireland, today there are 23. If the UK crashes out of the EU at the end of October without a deal it will have major implications for households on both sides of the Border through changes in the cost of living, employment, pay and government spending writes Tricia Keilthy. READ MORE 

NO PLACE FOR 470 SCHOOLS ON HOT MEALS FOR CHILDREN SCHEME

Irish Times, Monday 26th August 2019

Figures show gravity of ‘food poverty’ problem facing families trying to feed youngsters. A total of 470 primary schools countrywide have been refused a place on a Government-funded pilot scheme to give children a hot meal during the day, writes Brian Hutton. READ MORE 

FREE HOT MEALS COULD BE INTRODUCED IN ALL SCHOOLS UNDER PROPOSED PLAN

Irish Times, Monday January 28th 2019

Free hot meals could be made available to every school in the country under a plan to be proposed by Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty.  Ms Doherty will on Monday launch the first Hot School Meals scheme before a larger pilot initiative is introduced to 36 schools in September.  Some 7,200 children will benefit from the scheme this September at a cost of €1 million for this year and €2.5 million in a full year, write Jennifer Bray. READ MORE 

FIRST SERVING OF HOT SCHOOL MEALS PROJECT COMMENCES IN INCHICORE 

 On Monday, 28 January, 2019, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, T.D.  launched a Hot School Meals scheme for Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School in Goldenbridge, Inchicore when visiting the school with local T.D. Catherine Byrne, Minister of State at the Department of Health.      READ MORE 

HOT SCHOOL MEALS PROGRAMME CAN CHANGE LIVES – PRINCIPAL

‘Some picked out the vegetables, saying they had only ever seen them in pictures’.  A new national hot school meals programme “has the potential to be hugely transformative” for children, according to the principal of the first school in the scheme writes Kitty Holland. READ MORE 

SCHOOL MEALS PROGRAMME:    DÁIL ÉIREANN DEBATE, TUESDAY - 6 NOVEMBER 2018

1073. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to outline the details of the new hot school meals pilot programme for DEIS schools to commence in 2019; the process and criteria for schools to be selected for this pilot; the timeframe for roll-out; the length of time it will be rolled out for; the person or body evaluating the scheme; if the pilot meets the nutrition standards for schools’ meals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45159/18]. VIEW THE ANSWER HERE 

DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN ‘GET POOR SCHOOL MEALS’: FEW SCHOOLS ARE ABLE TO PROVIDE HOT FOOD BECAUSE OF A LACK OF CANTEENS

The Sunday Times, February 11th 2018

Some of the food served to children in disadvantaged areas under the school meals programme is “wholly unacceptable”, one of the scheme’s main providers has claimed.   Correspondence between Carambola Kidz, which supplies school meals to more than 30,000 children each day, and the Department of Social Protection, which oversees the programme, suggests that a lack of regulation means there is no guarantee the food served by some small suppliers meets recommended standards. The scheme provides food to 230,000 children in 1,540 schools.  Carambola Kidz wants the department to increase the amount of money set aside for meals, which is currently 60c for breakfast, €1.40 for lunch and €1.90 for dinner, because the level has not increased for more than a decade, writes Colin Coyle 

McKendrick et al. (2021) Pass go for Grab-N-Go?  An evaluation of the pilot of grab-n-go breakfast cart provision in three schools in East Renfrewshire February 2021

World Food Programme – 2020 State of School Feeding Worldwide

Feeding Students During COVID-19—Related School Closures: A Nationwide Assessment of Initial Responses Gabriella McLoughlin et al . JNEB Volume 52, Issue 12, December 2020, Pages 1120-1130

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https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=101732

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Global Child Nutrition Foundation – GCNF. 2019 Global Survey of School Meal Programs

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