O’Dowd highlights benefits of healthy meals

Date published: 02 March 2016

A nutritious and healthy school meal can increase a child’s concentration and have a positive impact on their educational outcomes.

That is the message from Education Minister John O’Dowd speaking ahead of International School Meals Day 2016.

Minister O’Dowd said:

“The importance of a nutritionally balanced school meal and the impact it can make on a child’s health and wellbeing should not be underestimated. A hungry child cannot concentrate and is therefore more likely to lag behind their peers.

“While we recognise the connection between healthy eating, education and better learning, there are particular challenges faced by pupils from lower income backgrounds in accessing, participating in and benefiting from a formal education. Too many families are still not accessing the support they are entitled to.”

Parents do not have to pay for school lunches if they receive any of the following: Income Support; income-based Jobseeker's Allowance; income-related Employment and Support Allowance; support under the Immigration and Asylum Act; Child Tax Credit, or Working Tax Credit and have an annual income of less than £16,190*; Working Tax Credit “run-on” – the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit; the Guarantee element of State Pension Credit; or if their child has a statement of special educational needs and is designated to require a special diet, or he, or she, is a boarder at a special school.

The Department’s ‘Food in Schools’ policy ensures that children can not only avail of healthy and nutritious food at school, but that they can also develop the knowledge and skills to enable them to make healthy eating choices and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

Concluding, the Minister said:

“International School Meals Day is an excellent initiative which raises awareness of the importance of good nutrition among children and developing healthy eating habits both at home and at school. Eating well and exercising regularly are the biggest steps towards a healthy lifestyle.”

The nidirect website has details on free school meals and more about nutrition and school lunches.

Notes to editors: 

  1. In 2014/15 97,518 pupils here are entitled to free school meals, while only 78,560 took this up.
  2. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign promotes the value of education.  This year’s campaign aims to ensure that parents have information on schooling and that they are aware of the steps they can take to ‘Get Involved’ and support their teenager in achieving good outcomes at school.  Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect - Education Works for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.
  3. See photos from the Department of Education in our flickr collection.
  4. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9755. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.

Share this page

Back to top