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O’Dowd encourages eligible parents to apply for free school meals

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A healthy and nutritious school meal can increase concentration, helping young people achieve their full potential.

That is the message from Education Minister John O’Dowd today as he aims to encourage all families entitled to free school meals to take up that entitlement.

The Minister said: “My Department is committed to raising standards in education and closing the achievement gap for young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds, and a healthy and nutritious school meal can make a significant contribution in helping deliver this.

“A child who is hungry may have difficulty concentrating in class and therefore be more likely to fall behind their peers if the issue is not addressed. In contrast eating a healthy school meal can improve a child’s concentration, their behaviour and ability to learn in class which will ultimately lead to improved educational outcomes.”

In 2014/15, 97,517 pupils were eligible for free school meals. 78,560 (80.6%) of eligible pupils availed of the service.

In conclusion the Minister highlighted the benefits of school meals and called on parents whose children may be eligible to apply. He said: “I believe that schools, parents and indeed the extended family have a role to play in ensuring our children grow up with healthy eating embedded as a lifelong habit.

“A school meal contributes to a child’s healthy balanced diet, their growth and development, their educational performance and their long-term health and well-being. However, too many families are not accessing the free school meals they are entitled to. I therefore encourage any parents who think they might be eligible to contact the Education Authority for advice.”

Further information is available on nidirectexternal link

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