Throughout this period of partial school closures, we are asking schools to support children who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals by providing meals or food parcels through their existing food providers wherever possible. However, we recognise that providing meals and food parcels is not a practical option for all schools. That is why, on 31 March we launched a national voucher scheme, with costs covered by the Department for Education.
Schools are best placed to make decisions about the most appropriate arrangements for eligible pupils. This can include food parcel arrangements, provision through the national voucher scheme or alternative voucher arrangements.
As of Tuesday 12 May, Edenred has reported that over £70 million worth of voucher codes have been redeemed into supermarket eGift cards by schools and families through the national voucher scheme. Edenred has also reported that over 16,500 schools had placed orders for the scheme as of Tuesday 28 April. We do not collect data on the scheme at pupil level.
These are rapidly developing circumstances. We will continue to keep the situation under review and to keep Parliament updated accordingly.