I welcome the extension of the Hot School Meals Programme to all DEIS Primary Schools from September benefiting 64,500 children.

The school meals programme provides food services to 1600 schools and 260,000 children. Good food allows students to take full advantage of the school day and achieve better outcomes from both a health and education point of view.

Minister Humphreys has provided €94m for the programme in 2023 which is a welcome increase allowing the new DEIS schools to be included. Preparations are now being made to extend the Hot School Meals programme to all primary schools.

Of course, the meals providers must be enabled to provide the meals at a sustainable cost. There is concern in the catering sector that the price per meal is not adequate at present and we must ensure that the caterers involved receive a sustainable return. I have raised this with the Minister and in the Seanad and I am hopeful of a positive outcome