We welcome the swift response from The Government this week to provide guidance for Free School Meals (FSM) provision during the Coronavirus outbreak.
However, there remain critical areas that need to be addressed to ensure all children have access to good, nutritional food whilst schools are fully or partially closed.
Action is required - we’ve co-drafted a letter with School Food Matters, Sustain, Food Foundation and Chefs in Schools addressed to the Secretary of State for Education, calling for urgent action regarding the following critical issues:
Funding to be allocated as schools see fit
Many families eligible for FSM meals have delayed registering for benefits-related free school meals because infant meals are free. These families fall outside of government guidance and schools are anxious that if they provide meals for the children they identify as needing support, they may not be covered by government funding. The reassurance that funding can be used where schools see fit will also allow any surplus to be used for siblings and other children in need.
Caterer first, not vouchers
Guidance to schools should be modified to encourage ‘caterer first’ provision, with vouchers as a last resort. The school catering networks are trusted partners of schools and local authorities, who understand school food better than anyone.
Further clarity is needed on the funding available for vouchers. Schools are concerned that the current allowance of £2.30 per meal will not cover food costs for families.
Government should commit to holiday provision for all FSM-eligible children until September. With the Easter holidays just two weeks away, low-income families will struggle to cover food costs.
With government lockdown measures in place, families need reassurances from The Government that families collecting food from school is a legitimate reason to leave home.
Read the full letter here