Senator Daly asks for a school meals scheme to combat the growing problem of child hunger in Ireland

Order of Business

19th of April 2012

Senator Mark Daly:I ask the Leader to organise a debate with the Minister for Social Protection present, on the report from NUI Galway which stated that 21% of children in this country are going to school, or to bed, hungry. That would account for 344,000 children who are not getting enough to eat. That statistic is all the more shocking because the media gave very little coverage to it. In addition, the debate in this House is not describing the situation as an emergency, which it surely is. If 350,000 children here or elsewhere are going to bed or to school hungry we should call it an emergency.

The figure is all the more stark because at yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade it was pointed out that in 2006 one in six children in Malawi were going hungry while today, due to Irish Aid, the figure is one in ten. There may be different levels of hunger but I do not think one can explain that to a child in Ireland or in Malawi.

Surely we can put in place a school meals scheme, as has been done in other countries. It has also been put in place in some schools but not enough obviously, given the scale of the problem involving 344,000 children who are going to school hungry. Food should be available in our schools for all those children who need it. One in five schoolchildren today could be going hungry, which is an appalling situation. Simple solutions include breakfast clubs and dinner clubs but at the very least we should not allow our children to go to school or to bed hungry.

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