Thursday 27 October 2016

School's breakfast club may face closure due to lack of government funds

Joan Burton
Joan Burton

A school principal has appealed to the Department of Social Protection for funding for a breakfast club that feeds hungry pupils.

Janet Lynch, the head teacher of St Eithne's National School in Raheny, said she has to depend on "handouts" from corporate sponsors to fund the club.

Ms Lynch said almost half of her pupils take advantage of the service, which is in danger of having to close due to lack of funding.

"We have 59 children on the list, how can we stop it? We have 128 pupils in total, so that's nearly half the school," she said.

"This whole school year has been done on handouts, but we don't know when the next bit of money is coming.

"Intel have offered us help, Kellogg's gave us 10 crates of cereal, Johnston Mooney and O'Brien deliver two sliced pans every day to our school - the driver comes especially with those two loaves of bread which is amazing.

"We get milk from Dublin City Council, so we're just pulling it together but it's just not sustainable."

Tanaiste Joan Burton visited the school last September when the club was launched with Healthy Food For All, but the day was mired in controversy when Ms Burton's car was unable to leave due to protesters.

"The Tanaiste herself was very positive about the breakfast club and we thought in the Budget we would get funding, but we still haven't got any," she said.

"There is money out there in the Department of Social Protection and I have contacted them twice this year and I've received verbal commitments, but nothing has come of it."


The club costs around 60c per child each day or €180 a week.

"It's a tiny amount but it makes such a difference in their lives and in our lives," she said.

"It's not right - it shouldn't have to be funded by corporate sponsorship."

Ms Lynch said she has seen the circumstances of many of her pupils deteriorate this year.

"This is the first year we have seen homelessness among our pupils. Some of them are in emergency accommodation, living in one room and they don't have a table to sit down at," she said. "It's not the parents' fault - it's just the way things have gone.

"One parent said to me that her child hadn't seen a vegetable since she moved into the hotel."

The club is run by teachers and volunteers.

"It's really enjoyable doing it - the children are happy, we try to get them to practise their manners and talk about portion control, so it's a really positive experience," she told Ryan Tubridy on 2fm.

"They're all just in better form and so are we and when we go up to the classroom everybody is calmer."

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