School food must be healthy for students

Schools that receive funds to feed students will be barred from serving meals that are high in sugar, salt, and fat under new rules to be announced today.

School food must be healthy for students

Health Minister Simon Harris and Education Minister Richard Bruton will outline the guidelines this morning amid growing concerns about obesity.

Under plans similar to those unveiled in Britain in recent years, school meals will have to abide by strict nutritional standards.

Mr Harris and Mr Bruton will say that Deis facilities using the school-meals programme — which costs €50m a year and feeds 250,000 children nationwide — will be barred from providing meals high in sugar, salt, and fat to students.

Any Deis schools that continue to provide students with unhealthy meals after this will have their funding scrapped.

The new rules are part of the latest update to the Nutrition Standards for the State’s School Meals programme, which is part of the wider Healthy Eating Guidelines initiative.

The standards were developed by the Department of Health, Safefood, the HSE, the Department of Education and the Department of Social Protection.

While they relate to breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, and school dinners at Deis schools, both Mr Harris and Mr Bruton are keen for other schools, which do not receive extra State funding for meals, to also sign up to the new policy.

Serious concerns over the standard of school meals, and the availability to students of foods and drinks that are high in sugar, salt, and fat, have repeatedly been raised in recent years, due to the growing issue of obesity in this country.

A decade ago, former health minister Mary Harney outlined similar plans to reduce the use of unhealthy foods in schools, while her immediate successors, James Reilly and current Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, have also previously raised questions over the use of vending machines and other matters.

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