Covid-19: Free school meals

Published by Phil Reynolds on 7 April 2020

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Last updated 7 April 2020

The DfE have now developed a national scheme to provide supermarket vouchers via the Edenred online portal. Schools will not have to pay for these vouchers as the costs for this scheme will be picked up centrally by DfE.

The government have also now announced that free school meals should continue to be offered to those children not at school during term time weeks and the Easter holidays with the cost being met by the DfE. The support however does not cover future holidays. Those children eligible to free school meals and still attending school should continue to receive a free meal.

Edenred will send schools an activation email, explaining how to access the portal and order vouchers. The email was sent on Tuesday 31 March to the email address DfE holds for your school. Once activated you can create vouchers. Edenred will provide schools with a step-by-step guide to ordering vouchers through their online portal but essentially you will need to confirm the value of the voucher and then distribute it. The options include:

  • order a single voucher to the value of £15 each week for every child eligible for benefits-related free school meals who is not attending school
  • set a weekly £15 rolling voucher
  • combine funding where a family has more than one child eligible for benefits-related free school meals
  • send an ‘eCode’ directly to the parent or carers of the pupils(s) eligible for free school meals – they will need to choose an eGift card from a range of supermarkets
  • select an eGift card on the parent or carer’s behalf, and print and post the eGift card to them

This will have to be on a case by case basis depending on parents’ internet skills and availability!

The eCodes provide families with instructions on how to use them to create an eGift card – but note that has a 3 hour time limit!

An alternative approach, where a family has no access to the internet or emails, is to choose a supermarket on a family’s behald and send an eGift card to the parent/carer. They can redeem once it arrives.

But again, do consider which supermarkets are accessible to the families. Engagement with them will be key here. Also do not forget the risk of vouchers being lost in the post – so perhaps consider a collection scheme.

The list of supermarkets involved in the scheme include:

  • Morrisons
  • Tesco
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Asda
  • Waitrose
  • M&S

Additional supermarkets are likely to be added in the near future.

Redeeming the vouchers is simple. This can be done by using a smartphone or tablet or showing a printed copy.

Families are free to select the most appropriate food and drink for their child. When selecting products, the DfE encourages families to consider health and nutrition. The School Food Standards may act as a useful guide for families.

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

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