Every Wednesday morning, during the school closures of the first and third lockdowns, Niall Crofton, principal at St Brendan’s Boys’ NS, Birr and SNA Helen Kirwan waited for the Glanmore Foods lorry.
As soon as it arrived on the school grounds at 10am, they’d unload the food packs, containing items valued at €10, and place them spaced out on a bench in the school’s long shed – an open, covered area measuring 109m.
In the packs were items like bread, crackers, jam funded through the School Meals Scheme run by the Department of Social Protection, as well as milk and cheese subsidised through the EU School Milk Scheme and fruit and vegetables, supplied in lockdown one by the Good Grub Initiative, a not-for-profit go-fund-me initiative, and in lockdown three by the Food Dudes programme.
With 184 pupils at St Brendan’s – it’s designated an urban DEIS school – Mr Crofton put word out immediately that care packs were available in the school and every pupil was entitled to one. “We wanted to ensure there was no stigma attached to collecting the packs.”
Aside from providing sustenance, the initiative allowed St Brendan’s to maintain supportive contact with parents. “They’d drive up to the shed. They could choose to get out and collect their pack, or we’d put it in the boot of their car if they wanted to avoid contact. Some parents came with a buggy. It gave us a chance to ask how things are going, can we help you in any way, do you need any books? Teachers would design a weekly learning pack for children whose parents don’t have technology or Internet.”
It meant families felt supported, comments Mr Crofton, who also delivered packs to the homes of 20 families. “They loved the weekly chat and joke, the banter, the few comforting words every Wednesday. Having that contact was vital at the time.”
Building on the success of the DEIS school initiative, the National Dairy Council and Bord Bia recently teamed up to create a series of new educational videos (www.moocrew.ie), available to families everywhere to watch. The videos feature All-Ireland GAA footballer Philly McMahon and world champion boxer Kellie Harrington as they seek to empower primary school children to adopt healthy eating habits while promoting the importance of physical activity.
“There wasn’t much to do when I was younger so I took up boxing,” says Kellie. It kept me out of trouble. [Winning] gold at the 2018 World Boxing Championships was amazing. A lot of my achievements are down to hard work, eating the right food and getting plenty of rest.”
- Visit www.fooddudes.ie.
- The educational videos with Kellie Harrington and Philly McMahon show the role healthy eating can play in achieving sporting success.
- “A lot of my success has come down to being focused, training hard and eating well,” says Philly.
- Food Dudes, an award-winning, curriculum-linked healthy eating programme, encourages children to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Moo Crew’, the schools' programme from the NDC, highlights the importance of the milk/yogurt/cheese food group as part of balanced diet/healthy lifestyle.