The Government has announced it is extending the School Meals Programme until the end of the summer.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the programme will be extended to all the schools and organisations currently involved over the summer for nine weeks until the funding for the 2020/2021 school year commences.

This means the scheme will run until the end of August.

The programme provides funding towards provision of food services for disadvantaged school children, with 1,580 schools and organisations involved benefitting 250,000 children. 

Minister Doherty said: "Generally, the funding for the school meals programme ceases at the end of the school year, the end of May for post-primary schools and the end of June for primary schools. 

"However, I want the funding to be available over the summer period to support children who do not have access to nutritious food to enable them to continue to receive meals during the summer school holidays."

Funding under the scheme is based on the number of children and the type of meal being provided with priority given to schools which are part of the 'Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools' (DEIS) scheme. 

Since 2016 additional funding is available to all DEIS schools to provide breakfast and lunch to the majority of pupils.

The total cost of the schools meals scheme in 2019 was €54m.

Under a revised scheme, the families of children and teens will receive weekly bags of food instead of daily lunches.