Schools have been issued with updated guidance to help them continue to operate the School Meals Programme amid the extended Covid-19 restrictions.

It means that thousands of vulnerable children and teens will get nutritious food that they normally receive during the school day.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have devised updated guidelines for the 1,580 schools and organisations in the programme as they set out to source and supply meals during the extended closures.

Schools have also been allowed to maintain the service during the Easter holidays and have been asked to consider providing weekly boxes of non-perishable, nutritious goods.

In a statement the Department of Education said that Tusla Education Support Service will communicate with all Home School Community Liaison Coordinators and School Completion Programmes and ask staff in those services to liaise with principals where they work to ensure that children/families in need of the School Meals Programme are identified and supported.

Schools have also been advised that if their current provider is unavailable to continue the service they can look at other options, such as a local charity in the community providing food or meals or sourcing supplies from an alternative provider or retailer.