Free School Meal Guidance for Schools - Impact of Coronavirus

school caterers

Along with many of you, we at Food for Life are concerned about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the school meal service, and particularly for pupils currently eligible for free school meals.

For some of these pupils, the school lunchtime meal is the only full, nutritious meal they have all day. For caterers, school closures will have significant ramifications.

The government has issued guidance on what schools should do to ensure “pupils currently eligible for benefits-related free school meals” have access to free school meals in the immediate future, during this time of crisis.

Government advice is for schools to discuss with their catering teams, as to whether they can:

  • preferably, prepare meals or food parcels to be delivered to or collected by families
  • check with local authorities whether there is a scheme for providing meals or food parcels
  • if meals or food parcels are not feasible, provide families with supermarket vouchers

We welcome the government’s guidance for this crucial provision of food at this time of crisis. However, there are significant questions which urgently need answering.

  • The guidance only covers “benefits-related” free school meals, not provision for pupils eligible for universal infant free school meals (UIFSM). These pupils should also be provided with a meal.
  • As parents work restricted hours, lowering incomes, an expanded cohort of pupils will be eligible for “benefits related” free school meals. Guidance should be provided to families, encouraging them to register.
  • Clearer advice should be provided to head teachers, clarifying that they should work with caterers to provide prepared meals or food parcels where possible. There is a danger with the reliance on vouchers that those who need nutritious food the most will not receive it.

We are working with School Food Matters, Sustain, Chefs in Schools and Food Foundation to call on the Government for greater clarity on provision for children entitled to UIFSM, support for families with a decreased income, and clearer advice for head teachers on how they should work with caterers to provide prepared meals or food parcels where possible. We will update you as this develops.

For more information check the online government guidelines.

Are you a school or a school caterer? We want to hear from you. How are you managing your service? How can we support you?

For help and guidance from Food for Life, email us at ffl@foodforlife.org.uk