Irish Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, has announced that children will have the option of a vegan or vegetarian school dinner starting in September, according to a report in the Irish Times.
This is part of a pilot project to provide hot dinners to 7,200 children in 36 primary schools. The minister has written to all primary schools seeking “expressions of interest” for the initiative.
The primary schools will be expected to provide a menu choice of at least two different meals per day as well as a vegetarian/vegan option and a choice catering for students’ religious and cultural dietary requirements. This is part of the growing vegan trend where providing a plant-based alternative is being bracketed in the same category as a minority interest to be catered for and not discriminated against.
The pilot project will cost the Irish Exchequer €1 million this year and is expected to rise to €2.5 million in 2020. This is relatively small compared to the school meals programme over 1,580 schools covering some 250,000 school children which cost €35 million in 2012 rising to €57.6 million in 2018.
Nutrition for children
“The provision of adequate and nutritious meals for a child’s health, learning, attention and educational achievement are invaluable” and a priority for Government, the Minister said.
“I believe that the provision of hot food services in schools guarantees ongoing positive returns on public investment in the health and educational performance of future generations.”
Healthy Ireland, a government body, has been established to improve the physical and mental health of all Irish citizens. Each primary school will have to identify a supplier to prepare and deliver hot meals according to food safety regulations in accordance with its nutrition standards for school meals.
A “proof-of-concept” project was run by Our Lady of Lourdes National School in Inchicore, Dublin since January this year. It has successfully provided 250 pupils with a hot meal at lunchtime every day. The Minister has that this pilot scheme proved that schools that do not have kitchen or canteen facilities can successfully provide hot meals as well as catering for children’s’ special dietary requirements.
This a growing trend. Schools in Scotland are slowly embracing this trend to commit to providing vegan options in schools.