George welcomes news of voucher scheme for schools providing free school meals

George Eustice, Member of Parliament for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle has today welcomed news that weekly shopping vouchers worth £15 will be provided to children eligible for free school meals to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus.

Children eligible for free school meals will benefit from a national voucher scheme allowing them to continue to access meals whilst they stay at home. Schools can now provide every eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus. Schools can continue to provide meals for collection or delivery themselves, but where this is not possible, the scheme will allow schools to provide vouchers to families electronically, or as a gift card for those without internet access. 

The vouchers can be spent on food at a range of shops including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S, with the Department working to get more shops to join the scheme as soon as possible.

George Eustice, MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle commented, "Typically children receiving free school meals would have these in school however because of the Coronavirus, this is not possible. As such the Government has made this scheme available to ensure that children who usually benefit from these meals still have access to them. I want to also take this time to thank schools and other education providers for all that they are doing to provide for our children in very difficult circumstances."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, "I recognise that the unprecedented action this Government is taking to protect the country from coronavirus, including closing schools, is dramatically affecting the lives of many families. I want to thank schools for the support they are continuing to provide to families during such uncertain times. No child should go hungry as a result of the measures introduced to keep people at home, protect the NHS and save lives. That’s why we are launching this scheme to make sure children who usually benefit from free school meals still have access to healthy and nutritious meals while they are not attending school."

Parents will receive the voucher through their child’s school, which can then be redeemed online via a code, or sent to their house as a gift card and used at supermarkets across the country.

This delivers on the Government’s commitment to provide ongoing support for the 1.3 million children that would receive benefits-related free school meals at their school.

Today (Tuesday 31 March) schools will be emailed by the Department for Education’s chosen supplier, Edenred. Schools will then either be able to:

  1. Order vouchers individually online and have a code sent via email to each family. The family can then show the code on their phone at the supermarket; or
  2. Arrange a bulk order of multiple codes and receive an excel spreadsheet to help schools organise sending on to a family, or create an eGift card for a preferred supermarket to be posted to a family if parents cannot get online.

The total value of vouchers available per eligible child per week exceeds the rate paid to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs.

The Department for Education has also published new guidance on free school meals to help schools and parents prepare.

DfE coronavirus helpline 

If you have a query about coronavirus (COVID-19) relating to schools and other educational establishments, and children's social care, in England contact our helpline. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and weekends 10am to 4pm. If you work in a school, please have your unique reference number (URN or UK PRN) available when calling the helpline. Telephone: 0800 046 8687