Netherlands launches free meal at school program for struggling families
From today, primary and secondary schools in the Netherlands can sign up for free school meals for their students who need them. The government made 100 million euros available for this program, organized by the Youth Education Fund and the Red Cross. The program will kick off at the Merlijn primary school in The Hague on Wednesday.
According to Minister Dennis Wiersma for Primary and Secondary Education, the most important thing is that kids are able to achieve their best without having to worry about issues at home. “The Netherlands is facing major challenges in the coming years, and it is therefore essential that we invest in our students and thus 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.”
According to the Minister, a free meal can make a huge difference to many kids. “Any tensions or money worries at home should not translate into the classroom,” he said. A full belly also means more energy to focus and participate in class. “That is why we will be helping students with a good meal at school on a larger scale in the coming months.”
Qualifying schools can sign up for the program on this website. They can choose between providing a meal at school, for which they can get up to 9 euros per child per week. Or they can opt for a meal-at-home option, in which parents get a grocery card of 11 euros per child per week, which they can use at any supermarket. “The Red Cross has been working with such cards worldwide for years and has had good experiences with them,” the Ministry said.
The Red Cross and Youth Education Fund work closely with the schools to ensure that the free meal doesn’t become an extra burden on teachers. They’ll discuss options like getting p[ermanent volunteers, who can receive a volunteer allowance for this, to make and distribute the meals. Or the schools can opt to have a local supermarket or caterer deliver the food.
Schools qualify for the program if 30 percent or more of their pupils come from low-income households. Pupils in special education and practical education are also eligible for a free school meal.