School Meals Programme

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Urban School Meals Scheme

School Meals Local Projects Scheme


The School Meals Programme operated by the Department of Social Protection provides funding towards provision of food services for disadvantaged school child through two schemes:

  • The statutory Urban School Meals Scheme for primary schools is operated by Local Authorities and part-financed by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
  • The non-statutory School Meals Local Projects Scheme provides funding directly from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
    to primary schools, secondary schools and local groups and voluntary organisations which operate their own school meals projects.

Benefits of the School Meals Programme

The School Meals Programme aims to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, by reason of lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided for them.  Research has shown that inadequate nutrition impacts negatively on children’s ability to learn and benefit from education.  Proper nutrition can improve children’s ability to concentrate, improve disruptive behaviour and encourage children to attend school.  The School Meals Programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement by children, particularly those from the most disadvantaged background.

Urban School Meals Scheme



The School Meals Scheme was originally introduced in 1914 for a two year period as a discretionary temporary measure in response to the Great Strike of 1913. The two year time limit was removed and control of the scheme was eventually transferred from the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to the Minister for Social Welfare in 1947.


Section 273 to 279 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1981 enables County Borough Councils, Urban District Councils and Town Commissioners to make arrangements for the provision of meals for children attending primary schools within their areas and in certain cases outside their areas. There is no legal obligation on the Local Authorities to provide this service.

Role of Department/Funding

This Department has no function in initiating school meals programmes in schools. The role of the Department in relation to the Urban School Meals Scheme (USMS) is to endorse the participation of schools in the scheme as recommended by the Local Authority.

Local Authorities may recoup 50% of their expenditure on the provision of meals for eligible children only. Administration costs are covered in full by the Local Authorities.

How to apply/Further information

Contact the School Meals Section or your Local Authority for further information.

School Meals Local Projects Scheme

The School Meals Local Projects Scheme provides funding directly to primary schools, secondary schools, local groups and voluntary organisations, in both urban and rural areas, which operate their own school meals projects. The Scheme was established to assist school meals projects operating outside the statutory Urban School Meals Scheme.


Who can participate

Projects must be targeted at areas of disadvantage or at children with special needs.  Priority for funding is currently given to schools which are part of the Department of Education & Skills’ initiative for disadvantaged schools, ‘Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools’ (DEIS).  However, there is no automatic entitlement to funding and all applications are considered in light of the available budget for the Scheme.  Funding will be provided only to existing projects that have shown ongoing viability.

What is covered by the funding

Funding under this scheme is for food only, which must be of suitable quality and nutritional value, and prepared and consumed in an appropriate environment. 

The type and range of meals provided, as well as the method and logistics of supplying the meals, are decided by the individual local groups and schools that operate the projects.


Funding under the School Meals Local Projects Scheme is based on a rate of payment per meal, per child, per day.   The current rates of payment are as follows:

Funding Under School Meals Local Projects Scheme


Max Rate of Payment (per child per day)  Examples of Food to be Provided 



 Cereal, Toast, Scone, Fruit, Yogurt, Milk
-2 Items must be provided



 Filled Sandwich/Roll or Soup & Roll or Salad Plate, plus 2 other items (eg Milk, Fruit, Yogurt)



Meat, Potatoes & Vegetables or Chicken Curry or Spaghetti Bolognaise, plus a drink (Milk, water)

Further information for schools involved in  the School Meals Local Projects Scheme

Frequently Asked Questions regarding the School Meals Local Projects Scheme

How to Apply

When to apply

Funding is allocated on a school year basis.  An application for funding must be made each year.  Applications should be submitted in advance of the commencement of the school year.

How to apply

Applications for funding must be made using the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection  application form for the School Meals Local Projects Scheme.  An application must be made in respect of each food club you operate.  For example, if a school operates a breakfast club and a lunch club, 2 separate applications must be made.

Contact us

School Meals
SWA Section
Department of Social Protection
College Road

Tel:  071 9157100 or 071 9138625 or 071 9138626

Last modified:13/05/2018

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