Prime Ministers Office (PMO) Director-General briefed the Cabinet yesterday morning (Sunday), 19.6.05, on the school meal program  initiated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  141,472 students (77,672 in primary schools and 63,800 in boarding schools) in 44 communities throughout the country receive hot meals daily at school.  The Prime Minister said that, “We must continue to expand the school meal program.”

The Cabinet decided, on 1.8.04,to establish a school meal program at primary and pre-school educational institutions in communities with long school days.  PMO Director-General Cohen said that, “Our goal is to reach the maximum number of students who take part in the program, with approximately 220,000 students being the target for 2006.”
A study initiated by the Social Affairs Ministry and the National Insurance Institute shows that most teachers believe that the school meal program has a positive influence in several areas vis-à-vis the students’ functioning, such as concentration, social relations in the classroom, motivation to study and reducing school violence.

The Sacta-Rashi Foundation was chosen to operate the project, in addition to participating in its financing.  Sacta-Rashi Executive Vice President and General Director Elie Elalouf said that, “The school meal program is not just about meals but is an educational program that will bring about declines in both violence and truancy and will create solidarity among students.  Only 2.7% of the costs of the project are for administration; all the rest goes directly to food suppliers and schools.  This proves that such a project can entail minimal costs.”  In several communities the meals served to the students in the context of the program are the only hot meals those students receive during week; thus Elalouf added, “We are considering the possibility of adding breakfast in several communities as part of the overall program.”

The composition of the age-appropriate meals served to students is determined by the Ministry of Health.  The schools adjust their class schedules so that students receive approximately 30 minutes for the meals.  Each participating school has a person who is in contact with the meal contractors.
The meal contractors were chosen by tender and must meet Health Ministry guidelines regarding kashrut and health standards regarding the preparation, storage and presentation of the food.  Health Ministry and Sacta-Rashi representatives oversee hygiene and quality control – including both random spot checks and regular inspections – throughout the process from initial purchase of food to the presentation of the ready meals to students.

A steering committee chaired by PMO Director-General Cohen and with the participation of the directors-general of the Social Affairs and Education Ministries and the National Insurance Institute, and senior Finance Ministry, Union of Local Authorities and Sacta-Rashi representatives, monitors and oversees the implementation of the program.
Periodic feedback from parents and students is taken into account in order to locate and resolve various problems.

The respective relative shares of the Government, the Sacta-Rashi Foundation, local authorities and parents in financing the project are determined in keeping with the socio-economic status of participating local authorities.  Participating local authorities determine the parents’ relative share in accordance with the parents’ socio-economic status.  Thus, parental participation in the financing ranges from symbolic payment to full payment.