Free school meals plan for low income family Dutch schools


Schools in The Netherlands with a large proportion of pupils from low income families are to get extra money from the state to pay for free lunches all pupils.

The Dutch education ministry on Wednesday launched plans to provide schools with a large number of low income families extra cash to pay for free lunches for all pupils.

The Dutch education ministry says that schools where at least 30 per cent of the pupils come from poorer families can register for the funding, and the government has set aside €100 million to fund the scheme, which will cover some 300,000 primary and secondary school pupils.

Each school will be able to decide for itself whether it wants to provide breakfast or lunch, or alternatively fill a fridge with healthy snacks so children can help themselves. It will be worth around €9 per child per week and run initially for a year.

‘Eating properly means learning properly’

Volunteers will be enlisted to make sandwiches or schools can decided to bring in an outside catering company, according to the report. Meals will be open to all pupils so as not to differentiate between children.

Schools can also opt to provide the very poorest families with a Red Cross food cheque worth €11, which can be used at any supermarket.  This is likely to be the preferred option at secondary schools, where there is no set lunch time, the ministry added.

In order to relieve the pressure on teaching staff, the initiative will be organised on a school by school basis through the Red Cross and education fund Jeugdeducatiefonds. The organisers will also provide advice on healthy eating, with suggested menus.

Dennis Wiersma, the Minister for Schools, said: “Eating properly means learning properly. Trials in which free breakfasts were provided at 500 primary schools were successful. School breakfasts really make a difference. Pupils have more energy and can concentrate better.

‘It’s up to us to ensure students can focus fully on school’

“For me, it is paramount that we help our students to get the best out of themselves. With, among other things, teaching language, math and how we interact with each other in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is facing major challenges in the coming years and it is therefore essential to invest in our students and thus in our future economy.

“Now that household budgets are sometimes under pressure in families, it is up to us to ensure that students can fully focus on school. Any tensions or money worries at home should not translate into the classroom.

“For many students, a school meal can therefore make a huge difference. They are more energetic and participate better in class. That is why we will be helping students with a good meal at school on a larger scale in the coming months.”

Click here for more on the scheme (Dutch only).

Author: Simon Weedy

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