The Government’s Hot School Meals programme is set to be significantly expanded this year.

Some 35,000 students across 189 schools will benefit from the scheme, an almost fivefold increase on the number last year.

The programme provides funding to schools and organisations towards the provision of healthy food for school children.

New research from the Department of Social Protection suggests the scheme has impacted positively on school attendance and the mental well-being of students.

The schools selected as part of this year’s scheme in Co. Louth include four schools in Dundalk: Redeemer Boys National School, Redeemer Girls National School, St. Nicholas’ Monastery National School and St Joseph’s National School.

St Brigid’s and St Patrick’s National School in Drogheda is also included as are St. Ultan’s Special School in Navan and Kilmainham Woods National School.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys says the programme is particularly important for more disadvantaged families: