Free School Meals

Department for Education written question – answered on 20th January 2021.

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Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to monitor Chartwell UK's progress in delivering the free school meals programme.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The continuing provision of free school meals to children from out of work families or those on low incomes is of the utmost importance to this government. Guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools.

The department does not hold a contract with any provider to provide free school meals of lunch parcels to children. School catering contracts are agreed locally, and are held at school, academy trust, or local authority level. We have guidance in place allowing schools to decide the best approach for supporting free school meal pupils who are at home. This can be through lunch parcels, local vouchers or the national voucher scheme which was available from Monday.

The images circulating of poor-quality food parcels are unacceptable. On 13 January 2021, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, met with Chartwell’s and other leading school food suppliers and caterers to insist on urgent action to make sure lunch parcels meet the standards we expect. We are grateful to those firms who are working hard with schools to provide nutritious, balanced lunches for children.

If a parent is concerned about the standards of their lunch parcel, they should speak directly with their school. If a parent cannot resolve their concern through their school, they can contact the department. The department will make contact with suppliers where concerns are escalated, to ensure they are following the good practice guidance we have set out. We will also alert the school to confirm appropriate contract management arrangements are in place, so that immediate improvements are made.

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