As you will be aware free school meals (FSM) are designed to provide lunches for eligible children during the term time. With our schools being closed at short notice due to the continuing health emergency, I am aware that there has been a delay in setting up this school led provision and recognise that some parents have found this difficult. My MP casework team is assisting some local families on this and we can help direct local Covid Hub support too.
Prior to the current national lockdown schools were coordinating isolation lunch boxes only during the last half term so this increase in demand, especially for primary schools, has needed systems to be reinstated including the recruitment of additional staff to manage systems. More information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance .
Whilst schools coordinate supplies to eligible students, the current options this week are either a food parcel or a locally administered voucher scheme. I can confirm that the National Edenred voucher scheme is being re-activated and goes live again on Monday 18th. Schools have the option to choose which option best suits their administration processes.
The current budget is increased to £15 per week per child, to cover both the cost of food and handling/delivery costs. This has been increased from the £11.50 per week per child.
Whilst some schools will have their own on-site catering facilities they are only able to provide meals for students who are attending school that day. Meals cannot be cooked on site and then distributed externally due to off-site food safety regulations. For those schools which choose the food parcel route, via their provider, there are clear guidelines of the range of food groups that a pre-delivered box should contain https://laca.co.uk/laca-view/free-school-meals-guidance-producing-food-parcels . The key is provide a balanced diet of foods that require simple preparation/cooking. Parcels come with preparation/cooking instructions to cater for the wide audience of recipients.
For those families who are in additional need, over and above this provision of free school lunches for their eligible children, may I direct you to the West Sussex County Council Covid Hub page which provides additional information on what other support is available: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire-emergencies-and-crime/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-and-information/community-hub-covid-19/ .
Following reports received about the quality of food parcels some parents had received Vicky Ford MP, as the Minister for Children and Families at the Department for Education, confirmed yesterday to MPs that: ‘The photos being shared on social media are completely unacceptable and do not reflect the high standard of free school meals we expect to be sent to children’. She has confirmed she has already met with the CEO of Chartwells (as the provider of the food parcels) who apologised, acknowledged that these parcels were not good enough and assured her that immediate action would be taken to stop further deliveries of poor-quality parcels. Further meetings with the SoS for Education and her with providers occur again today too. As well as an additional food parcel delivery to the eligible child to the increased funding level, schools who have been affected by this issue will be compensated.
It's great to see the good examples of healthy, nutritional boxes. Many schools and catering companies are working hard to prepare and deliver these meals to children and there are some brilliant and GOOD examples too.
Many children who were isolating had them last term and it was ok BUT there was a problem with some this week so this must be rectified. We are all making sure this happens.
Schools can make a choice. Right now the choice is: a food parcel or a local voucher scheme. From Monday (18th) the choice is: a food parcel or a local voucher scheme or the National Edenred Scheme