Government must now strengthen free school meal guidance, say charities

The Children's Food Campaign and other charities are calling on Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, to address continued insecurity over free school meals for vulnerable children during this lockdown period.

With schools closed for all but children of key workers, the Department for Education, local authorities, caterers and schools have had to quickly develop new food solutions for the 1.3 million children in receipt of benefit-related free school meals. We welcome the guidance on free school meals that was published by the Government on Friday 20 March.

It has been incredible to see the speed and dedication with which so many local caterers, community organisations, charities, school heads and teachers have worked to identify a solution that works for them locally. 

However, many fears and uncertainties over funding and structures for delivery still remain, and Sustain's Children's Food Campaign has joined with School Food Matters and several other charities in writing to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to highlight four key areas where further guidance is urgently needed:

  • Confirmation that block grant funding for Universal Infant Free School Meals will still be passed through, so that headteachers can continue to work in good faith with their caterers to provide for families in need.
  • Department for Education guidance to schools advocating continued work with existing catering providers, as trusted partners of schools, and only promoting supermarket vouchers as a last resort solution, where other local options are not available. 
  • Where vouchers are supplied, clear guidance on the value these should represent, recognising that the existing £2.30 per meal payment may not be sufficient for families who cannot achieve cost efficiencies of large scale catering operations. 
  • Assurances of continued support for schools to keep providing meals to children during the forthcoming Easter Holidays, given traditional holiday programmes will not be taking place.

This first week is going to be a learning experience for everyone - we are already hearing that the Government order to everyone to stay at home now means many families are now unable to collect meals from schools, and caterers are increasingly exploring alternative delivery options, from weekly or twice weekly hampers and local delivery. At Children's Food Campaign we are continuing to monitor these developments, and we've already noted some fantastic local collaboration as well as some worryingly inadequate and unhealthy examples of what is now being provided to school children. If you have experience - good or bad - that will help inform our recommendations to Government, then please do get in touch with us below. 

 

What You Can Do

Read the full letter to Secretary of State for Education

Share your examples by tagging @childrensfood on Facebook and Twitter or by email to barbara@sustainweb.org or fran@sustainweb.org 

 


25/03/2020
Children's Food Campaign

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Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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