The business world has sprung to the aid of disadvantaged schoolchildren who have been missing out on in-school meals since Covid-19 restrictions came into force.
Thousands of children attending schools in the Deis – or Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools – programme have been getting breakfast every morning in school, an important source of balanced nourishment for those with troubled family backgrounds.
Many more are helped by afterschool projects such as the Aisling Project in north Dublin which provides dinner and a stable environment for activities and homework.
But since social distancing was introduced in response to coronavirus and families are asked to stay at home, the delivery of balanced nutrition and other supports has become extremely problematic.
While schools remain closed the Government has provided funds for basic food packages to replace the normal school meals. But the packages do not contain fruit or vegetables and as such do not compensate in terms of nutritional value for the loss of school meals, according to those involved with Good Grub.
In the last two weeks however, food wholesaler Begleys donated five tonnes of fresh vegetables to Dublin businessman Denis O’Reilly, so that he and his family could prepare food packages and deliver them to 1,000 families in Dublin’s disadvantaged communities.
The scheme then “grew legs” according to Mr O’Reilly who called his initiative Good Grub. He plans to deliver at least 25,000 fruit and vegetable parcels between now and when children return to school, working with his supply partner Glanmore Foods.
Among the backers of Good Grub is Michelin-starred chef Ross Lewis from Dublin’s Chapter One Restaurant and his daughter Sheana , who have made videos on how to prepare and cook simple meals using the fruit and vegetables that the families are getting.
The videos will be put online on schools’ websites and hard copy instructions will be put in fruit and vegetable packs by Glanmore Foods, which will deliver the packs to schools for onward delivery to families in each area.
Good Grub set up an online Go Fund Me page and in the first four days breached its target of €100,000. The target has now been extended to €250,000 and the backers are inviting all businesses to get involved or to make a donation online.
Already several thousand fruit and vegetable parcels have been delivered to homes where children attend Deis schools and the past weekend saw members of the Aisling project, teachers from the Virgin Mary boys and girls national schools in Ballymun and supporters of Good Grub prepare parcels for deliveries in the Ballymun area of north Dublin.
“It is not so easy to do this while socially distancing but it can be done” Mr O’Reilly said.
"We're appealing to companies in particular with corporate social responsibilities budgets and resources to please dig deep and give something towards the Good Grub initiative," he added. Donations can be made at www.GoodGrub.ie and tax relief can be obtained on corporate donations if they are made through the Aisling Project, see aisling.ie for details.