Schools in the state's free School Meals Programme, and the companies that supply them, are grappling today with how to continue supplying families with food while abiding with Covid-19 social restrictions.

Around 250,000 children and teens receive free meals while at school. The provision is regarded as a vital source of nutrition for many.

Late last week the Government gave the go ahead for schools to replace the meals children receive in school with weekly food packages.

However, there was concern around how the parcels could be distributed safely.

Today schools have been informed that An Post will enter into local arrangements with schools to deliver parcels to families on the school's behalf.

However, An Post has stated that it will only take parcels containing non-perishable goods.

In a circular to schools the Department of Education has confirmed that the provision of food parcels is considered an essential service under the new restrictions announced by the Taoiseach on Friday evening.

It says school staff who are travelling to assist with this would be included in the list of those who are allowed to travel for essential work purposes.

One of the largest companies that delivers school meals has already reopened with a view to delivering up to 10,000 weekly packs for families to schools.

However, the packs they are working on this week contain perishable goods such as milk, bread, fruit and yoghurt.

Several school principals have told RTÉ News that they have worked out systems for this week whereby parents will come and collect the parcels, or private delivery to homes will be arranged.

The schools are unsure as yet as to how best to proceed in coming weeks.

One other company that supplies schools, Carambola, has told RTÉ News that it will begin providing multi week packs of non-perishable foods directly to families on behalf of the schools it deals with.

Both Glanmore Foods and Carambola laid off hundreds of workers three weeks ago when the schools closed.

They, and other companies that supply schools, are hoping to bring many of those workers back now.

The Department of Education has told schools that the collection of food parcels from schools by individuals can continue until such time as the school has made alternative arrangements.

The state pays €2 daily for school meals for children attending DEIS or disadvantaged schools.

This amounts to €10 per child for a weekly pack.

Schools have told RTÉ News that "ideally" they would prefer those packs to be able to contain perishable goods. But they accept that this may not be possible.

"If there is a bunch of bananas, and a loaf of bread, I'd be confident that they will be eaten", said one principal "but dry good are more uncertain."