These are the new rules schools must follow in order to feed pupils healthy food

Update - 11.56am: The Minister for Health, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection have launched the new Nutrition Standards for the State’s School Meals Programme.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said: "Good nutrition for children and ensuring they are given healthy foods is a key priority for me and the Department of Health. This is important for maintaining a healthy weight for children, as well as supporting healthy growth and development."

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty outlined how much her department is contributing to the scheme.

She said: "My department has increased the funding for the School Meals Programme by €5.5m this year which will benefit over 250,000 children in the coming school year – this number continues to grow as more and more schools sign up for the School Meals Programme including the recently designated DEIS schools."

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said: "I believe these new Healthy Eating Standards will enhance the current School Meals Programme, which we as a Government expanded this year to an extra 245 schools, including a further 47,000 students."

Earlier: High fat, salt and sugar will be off the menu for school meals for around a quarter of a million children under new rules to be announced today.

Only healthy food choices that meet the new standards will be funded for breakfast clubs, lunches, snacks and after school clubs.

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

Around a quarter of children is overweight or obese, with that number rising in Deis schools.

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.

Nutritional standards have changed in recent months, with a revamped food pyramid, emphasising the importance of reducing foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

These will be off the menu in schools with breakfast and after-school clubs - and where snacks and lunches are provided.

That means more fruit and vegetables, water and milk to drink and healthy food choices in sensible portions.

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.


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