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Coronavirus: Issue food parcels or supermarket vouchers to free school meals pupils, DfE tells schools

free school meals


Schools should work with catering providers or local authorities to provide food parcels or send out supermarket vouchers to pupils eligible for free school meals who are affected by coronavirus.

The Department for Education has sent out new guidance for schools this morning on how to support pupils eligible for means-tested meals who are either unwell or self-isolated or at home because of temporary school closures.

Schools don’t normally have to provide free school meals for pupils who are away due to illness or school closure, but the government has said it “expects schools to continue to provide support” during the pandemic.

However, the DfE has accepted that the steps schools take to support pupils affected by coronavirus “might be different depending on the individual circumstances of the school”.

According to the guidance, schools’ first step should be contacting their in-house catering team or catering provider “to see if they can prepare meals or food parcels that could be delivered to, or collected by families”.

“If you use a local authority catering service, you should check if they have a scheme for providing meals or food parcels to vulnerable groups affected by coronavirus. If you use a private catering provider, contact them to see what alternative arrangements are available.”

Schools unable to use their current provider to continue offering meals should consider “using other local initiatives” such as a local school acting as a community hub, or a local charity. Alternatively, schools can provide families with supermarket vouchers, something a number of schools have already started doing.

The government is “currently developing a national approach to providing support through supermarket and shop vouchers”, and will provide further details “shortly”, the guidance states.

In the meantime, schools have been told by the DfE that they can “order supermarket and shop vouchers directly from a number of retailers – usually through their corporate division”.

“We recommend sourcing vouchers for supermarkets or shops in the local area. Where possible they should be restricted for use against age-related products.”

Schools will get a choice of e-vouchers, which can be emailed directly to parents, and gift cards, which are better for parents without access to the internet,

“You should check which pupils are eligible and currently in receipt of free school meals, and vouchers should be made available to the parent or the adult with caring responsibility for that child.”

The government plans to issue further guidance “shortly” on how it will compensate schools that incur additional costs in providing free school meals or vouchers.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “No child who would ordinarily receive a free school meal should go without this while their school is closed or while they are having to self-isolate at home.

“By giving headteachers flexibility on how they can get meals or shop vouchers to these children, they can make the most appropriate decisions for families in their communities, and provide immediate reassurance that this important support will continue.”



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9 Comments

  1. Tracy Doyle

    Too little, too late, just vague info.

    The FSM students won’t be in school after tomorrow.

    The only help that has been offered is by schools taking matters into their own hands and issuing supermarket vouchers or providing food parcels.

    Where is the detail in the announcement? What does the government think the daily amount will be that children should be given?

    • My child missed out 3wks school meal….the 1st week the school called me n asked to come n collect the lunch everyday. As a single mum how can I go to school everyday n bring my child with me…government said to stay Indoors n am worried to see what is happening all around…if something happen to me who will look after my child…so I emailed the school that I can’t come to collect thelunch everyday…now after Easter I tried to call the school to ask if they provide food voucher but they said they don’t…some friends told me from other school tyey are getting food voucher…I called school again but now they said I need to collect food from the school once a week….is it fair during this peak period to go n collect food with my child…I would like them to provide the vouchers…any advice please..thks

  2. diane cunningham

    I agree, I have asthma but have a son in primary entitled to FSM his school is saying that i take him to lunch every day for half hour, no play just lunch then leave. but obv with asthma this isnt ideal, and as a result of this my son is having to miss out on his lunch. as this primary is not offering any alternatives.

    • Ruth White

      Our local children’s centre will not post out the vouchers (as on a skeleton staff) so we are having to miss out on a voucher for two weeks. The woman I spoke to said she thinks they will have an evoucher system set up after the Easter holidays. Evouchers should have been set up straight away to prevent unnecessary contact.

  3. MissPetite

    It’s 3 days in already and nothing has been provided. So chances are my children’ Immune systems will be poor & at risk to coronavirus. Fast, ho without a main meal for 3/4 days and THEN talk to us if you’re still breathing

  4. Sarah Peters

    Due to unprecedented calls we are unable to answer your calls. This is from Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Sainsbury’s . How are schools expected to get hold of these vouchers. Asda limit vouchers to 3 per customers. Lidl don’t operate an E-Voucher system nor do they have Gift Cards in any of their stores. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Tesco, after emailing them will respond in the next 24 hours. The advice from the government is convoluted and at the very best misleading!!

  5. My daughters school told me I have to collect her lunch from the school at a certain time
    My daughter is chronic asthmatic and I have health problems government states we should stay at home the school refused to deliver
    Been a week already no lunch, food parcel or vouchers and not been informed what’s going to happen for the future

  6. My child missed out 3wks school meal….the 1st week the school called me n asked to come n collect the lunch everyday. As a single mum how can I go to school everyday n bring my child with me…government said to stay Indoors n am worried to see what is happening all around…if something happen to me who will look after my child…so I emailed the school that I can’t come to collect thelunch everyday…now after Easter I tried to call the school to ask if they provide food voucher but they said they don’t…some friends told me from other school tyey are getting food voucher…I called school again but now they said I need to collect food from the school once a week….is it fair during this peak period to go n collect food with my child…I would like them to provide the vouchers…any advice please..thks

  7. Sharon Davies

    I’m really disappointed in my children’s school m a single mum and I have 2 children who are both entitled to free school meals we have been in self isolation for 7 weeks now as 1 of my kids were I’ll before the lockdown so we were told to isolate, none of my family live near us I’m relying on my kids dad to go shopping for us when hes not working hes also shopping for himself and his brothers family who are also in lockdown I rang school about the vouchers there not doing them as the schools still open for key workers children so they want us to collect food every day this is unacceptable I was told to get friends to pick up the meals I’ve explained our situation but it falls on deaf ears I feel like the school is making money on us my shopping bill is £40-£50 per week more than normal not to mention the extra gas and electric were using I dont understand why they wont provide the vouchers it’s not there money it’s what our children are entitled to my saving have nearly gone and I’m starting to struggle now I think it’s disgusting what there doing this situation is hard enough