Free School Meals: Voucher Schemes

Department for Education written question – answered on 3rd June 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask Her Majesty's Government why school meal vouchers can only be used in certain shops and cannot be used in all supermarkets and convenience stores.

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

During this period of partial school closures, we are asking schools to support children who are at home and eligible for and claiming benefits-related free school meals by providing meals or food parcels through their existing food providers wherever possible. We know that many schools are successfully delivering food parcels or arranging food collections for eligible children, and we encourage this approach where it is 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.

Through the national voucher scheme, schools and families could initially access e-gift cards for Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. On Monday 27 April, we added Aldi to this list and on Wednesday 29 April, we added McColl’s. We recognise that it may not be convenient or possible for some families to visit one of these supermarkets and we have been working to see if additional supermarkets can be added to this list. Any additional supermarkets would need to have the right infrastructure to deliver e-gift cards across their network of stores.

If schools are unable to provide meals or food parcels and none of the supermarkets participating in the national voucher scheme are suitable for families, schools can purchase vouchers for alternative shops and claim costs back, up to a certain limit.

Guidance on providing free school meals during the coronavirus outbreak is available here:

Further guidance on financial support is available here:

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

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