Latest news: Extension of the free school meal voucher scheme to cover May half term
Following the Save Our Lunches petition we supported and the letter we co-signed to expand free school meal provision to cover all holiday periods, the Department for Education announced this week the extension of the free school meal voucher scheme to cover the May half term.
We welcome this decision, yet it came far too late for appropriate planning and provision for schools, caterers and parents.
Again, The Government has failed to recognise the benefit and need for a catered first approach, which we have been repeatedly calling for, to ensure pupils receive a nutritious, full meal at lunchtime. For some, this is the only full meal they get each day.
We urge the Department for Education to support schools and caterers to deliver a catered first approach.
We will update this page as the situation develops.
Petition to extend FSM funding across May half term and summer holidays
The Department for Education is yet to respond to the letter we co-signed with 40 other organisations to expand free school meal provision to cover all holiday periods across the whole of England until the end of August.
As the May half term approaches, action is rapidly needed.
We are supporting the Save Our Lunches petition , calling for the government to ensure the 1.3 million children who receive free school meals do not go without during the holidays. For many children, this is the only hot, full meal they get all day.
So far the petition has had over 90,000 signatures, please join us in signing here.
Government temporarily extends FSM eligibility criteria, Aldi joins supermarkets in voucher scheme & Wales guarantees FSM summer holiday funding
Free School Meal (FSM) eligibility extension
The government has published updated guidance following the announcement that the FSM eligibility criteria will be temporarily extended to some children affected by NRPF (no recourse to public funds).
The update also explains how schools can confirm their eligibility and award free school meals.
Read the government’s latest update here.
We welcome the guidance from children’s minister Vicky Ford , who has advised that schools can start delivering free school meals or food vouchers to newly-eligible pupils before they receive “evidence” of universal credit claims.
Read more here.
Aldi joins the supermarket voucher scheme
Last week (21st April) Aldi confirmed that they have signed up to the FSM national voucher scheme.
Food for Life recommends catered meals where possible, however we welcome broadening the network of stores signed up to this scheme, particularly with a more affordable supermarket for many.
Wales confirms FSM funding throughout summer holidays
Wales has become the first country in the UK to guarantee funding for children to continue to receive FSM throughout the summer holidays.
The Welsh Government confirmed on 22 April that each eligible child will receive the equivalent of £19.50 a week.
It will make £33 million available to help Local Authorities continue to provide FSM until schools re-open or up to the end of August.
More information here.
This is positive news and we now ask that central UK government guarantees FSM provision throughout the summer holidays as a matter of priority – providing reassurance for children and families across the country.
Free school meal vouchers provision over the Easter holidays
Michael Gove announced Saturday 4th April that The Government will now pay for free school meal vouchers in the school holidays.
Gove also stated that The Government is “conscious more must be done” to help children at risk and in need.
We welcome this positive step in the right direction which follows our letter to government last week raising concerns over the holiday gap.
Food for Life will continue to push for greater clarity and further updates to guidance on related issues this week. As ever, we will be pushing for a catered-first approach for free school meals where possible, over vouchers.
On Tuesday 31st March, the Department of Education updated the guidance relating to free school meal provision in the wake of school closures due to Coronavirus. The updates to the guidance are as follows:
- The guidance reiterates that head teachers should speak to the school catering team or provider to see if they can prepare meals or food parcels that could be delivered to or collected by families.
- Where meals or food parcels are not viable, the guidance says that food vouchers should be provided. The voucher scheme is now up and running, £15 per week for children eligible for benefits-related FSM, and can be spent in Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, M&S. The Department for Education says they are exploring options for expanding use beyond these supermarkets.
- The guidance confirms the vouchers will be provided for term time only.
- The guidance confirms that Universal Infant Free School Meal funding will be paid to schools as normal.
Overall, we welcome the guidance as it provides clarity on some critical issues and lays out a commitment to delivering UIFSM funding. However, more is needed from the Department of Education on various fronts to ensure all children have access to good, nutritional food whilst schools are fully or partially closed.
Rob Percival, Soil Association’s Head of Food Policy said:
“This updated guidance from government is welcome. Schools and caterers are working hard to ensure that vulnerable children receive a meal, and confirmation that £15 vouchers are available will come a relief to many families. School caterers should be supported to provide food parcels and meals where possible, but the vouchers provide a necessary safety net.
Confirmation that schools will receive their UIFSM funding is also welcome, but the government should provide stronger encouragement to schools to spend this on vulnerable children and families in their community. We know that many children remain ineligible for Free School Meals, despite living in poverty. It’s important that schools and caterers do all that they can to support these children at this difficult time.
We are also dismayed that the vouchers are only available during term time. Given the extraordinary pressures that families are under, this is grossly remiss. The voucher scheme should be extended across the Easter holidays. As a matter of urgency, in the absence of any other holiday provision, the government should encourage schools to use their UIFSM funding to provide vouchers for vulnerable families as needed across the holidays. No child should