Schools Schools FAQ

Q. What is a School Food Initiative?

A School Food Initiative (SFI) is a school-based project that improves the availability, affordability, and accessibility of healthy food for low-income groups at a local level. Examples of School Food Initiatives are breakfast clubs, food growing projects, school lunches and nutrition education programmes.

To find out more about other School Food Initiatives, browse our Initiatives Directory.

Q. Why are Food Initiatives in schools important?

Schools are an important setting for the provision of healthy food for a number of reasons:

  • Food and nutrition are central to the physical and cognitive development of children and young people, which in turn contributes to educational success.
  • Schools provide a social environment where children can access, enjoy and experiment with food without financial and other constraints.
  • A positive experience of food in schools can filter through to children’s homes and shape their attitudes to food and eating patterns in later life.
  • Schools are a cost-effective medium to deliver the expanding range of public policy objectives in relation to food consumption, from obesity to food poverty.

Q. Where can I access funding for a School Food Initiative?

We keep track on the latest funding opportunities for you and our resources section details additional funding schemes available for schools.

Q. Does food poverty among children exist in Ireland?

20% of children under age 16 experienced food deprivation (EU SILC 2006)
1 in 5 children are going to bed hungry because there is no food in their home (HBSC Survey 2006)
16% of children never eat a breakfast on weekdays (HBSC Survey 2006)
Studies show an increasing reliance on high fat and/or high sugar snacks and drinks/fruit. Vegetable intake falls far short of what is recommended
(SLAN 2007, National Children’s Food Survey, for example)
Children have an inadequate intake of folate, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C and B2. (National Children’s Food Survey)
There are inequalities in food consumption and dietary behaviour between DEIS and non-DEIS schools (HSBC report 2008)

In addition, there has been an increase in obesity among children of school age:

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys are either overweight or obese (National Children’s Food Survey)
22% of 5-12 year olds are overweight or obese (National Children’s Food Survey)

Q. Can any school submit a case study?

Yes, we are keen to hear about other SFIs and approaches which have worked well. We also want to hear of the obstacles experienced while setting up and running SFIs so that we can bring these to the attention of the policy makers.

School Food Initiative Good Practice Guide FAQ:

Q. What is the Guide about?

A Good Practice Guide for School Food Initiatives offers advice on funding for school meal initiatives, how to provide school lunches, how to set up and run breakfast and after-school clubs, how to plan a school food initiative, as well as how to devise a Healthy School Food Policy, including introducing healthier snacks and lunchboxes, the provision of water in schools and school fruit and vegetable growing projects.

Q. Who is the Guide aimed at?

  • School boards of management
  • School principals and staff
  • Parents’ associations
  • Community and private providers of food to schools
  • Community Dieticians
  • Organisers of breakfast and afterschool clubs.

Q. What does the Guide do?

The guide promotes best practice in the provision of food in schools, in particular the delivery of official school food schemes (School Meals Programme, EU School Fruit and Milk Scheme, Food Dudes etc)
The guide shows how school food provision can be linked with a whole school approach to healthy eating and drinking, including lunchboxes, water/drinks, growing projects, thereby maximizing the impact on attitudes to food and the consumption of food by children and their families
The guide connects school food provision with national policy

Q. What are the links between the guide and national policy?

The guide connects school food provision with national policy objectives in relation to food poverty, food and nutrition, obesity and health inequalities. The Guide supports three major pieces of work:

DSFA (2003), Review of Urban and Gaeltacht School Meals Schemes
DOHC (2005), Obesity The Policy Challenges: The Report of the National Taskforce on Obesity. (HFfA have already been acknowledged in fulfilling some of the recommendations in the interim report (April 2009)
National Nutritional Policy (due out in the summer 2009)

Q. Can any school download a copy?

Yes, the guide is available to download free of charge electronically. If you are having problems downloading the documents please contact us at or +353 (0)1 6139001.

Q. I do not have pdf facilities on my computer to download the guide?

If you are unable to download the document in pdf format, contact us at or +353 (0)1 6139001 to receive a printed copy.

Q. Is the Guide available in Irish?

No, unfortunately we currently do not have the resources to provide the information in both languages, but we hope to do so in the future.

Q. Who funded the Guide?

Combat Poverty Agency contributed to the research and design costs
Department of Health and Children contributed to the printing costs

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