Free School Meals: Voucher Schemes

Department for Education written question – answered on 26th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Boycott Baroness Boycott Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they intend to measure the success of the national voucher scheme; and whether they have access to supermarket data on (1) the amount of vouchers spent, and (2) what foods such vouchers were spent on, in order to assess whether the scheme was successful in supporting healthy eating.

Photo of Baroness Boycott Baroness Boycott Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what guidance they have issued to support families to feed children nutritious food that meets school food standards whist schools are closed.

Photo of Baroness Boycott Baroness Boycott Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to extend the national voucher scheme to cover the half-term holiday in May and the six-week summer holiday.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

As both my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have made clear, the government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID 19.

Our latest guidance for schools is set out below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-schools-and-other-educational-settings.

During this period, we are asking schools to support pupils 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 practicable option for all schools. That is why on 31 March we launched a national voucher scheme as an alternative option, with costs covered by the Department for Education.

Voucher codes are being processed and many thousands of families are redeeming them. Edenred has reported that over £101.5 million worth of voucher codes have been redeemed into supermarket eGift cards by schools and families through the scheme as of Friday 22 May. Edenred has reported that 17,000 schools had placed orders for the scheme as of Tuesday 12 May.

Families are free to select the most appropriate food and drink for their child. When selecting products, we encourage families to consider health and nutrition. The School Food Standards may act as a useful guide for families and is available at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/standards-for-school-food-in-england.

The vouchers should not be redeemed for any age-restricted items, such as alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets.

There are a number of online resources available to support families in preparing healthy and nutritious food, including on the NHS Eat Well website: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/?tabname=recipes-and-tips.

Provision for free school meals is ordinarily term time only. However, during the Easter holidays the department met the costs of offering free school meals to eligible pupils not attending school during term time weeks. This was in recognition of the unprecedented levels of disruption and uncertainty for schools during this time.

These are rapidly developing circumstances; we continue to keep the situation under review and will keep Parliament updated accordingly.

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