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Thousands of Cyprus pupils depend on free meal programme

Some 13,000 pupils at all levels of state education in Cyprus are this year being given free breakfast as part of an Education Ministry programme to help destitute families.

The programme this September entered its sixth year, building on last year’s list of young participants with online registrations until October 5.

When it began in 2012, the programme provided free breakfasts to 8,278 pupils at its start. By the end of that school year, the number grew to 10,500.

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In 2013, it grew further to 13,317 and then, in 2014, to 13,560.

In 2015 more stringent criteria was brought in to prevent abuse of the system and the number of eligible pupils dropped to 12,761 but, during 2016, a further around 600 pupils were added, bringing the total up to 13,300.

The figure for this year is anticipated to remain at around these levels.

Each meal costs the state €1 for primary schools and €1.20 for middle and high schools. This year, the EU will be contributing to covering the cost.

Each school has a body responsible for evaluating requests which generally come from families existing on the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI,) as well as other who receive other financial assistance for the state.

Applicants also include families where one or both parents are unemployed, one-parent families, families caring for orphaned children, families with three or more children, and those who have trouble supporting all their children due to health problems.

Children are given a sandwich or other pre-approved snack from the their school canteen, or if there is no canteen, another supplier.

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