Some constituents have been in contact about the provision of free school meals in England over the summer holiday period.
I welcome the action being taken to help schools provide free school meals for eligible families during this difficult period. Provision for free school meals is ordinarily term time only. However, during the Easter and half term holidays the Department for Education met the costs of the national voucher scheme to provide free school meals for eligible pupils – and from 15th June, vouchers worth over £154 million have been redeemed by schools and families.
I know that the upcoming summer holiday is daunting for families who have already faced huge challenges in this pandemic, and in recognition of the unprecedented situation, a new Covid Summer Food Fund has been announced. This additional funding will enable children who are eligible for free school meals to claim a 6-week voucher to cover the summer holiday period. Please do check the eligibility criteria for free school meals here, as criteria is temporarily being extended to include some groups who have no recourse to public funds.
This system was developed at pace to support families across England, and I am assured that the Department for Education is working closely with the supplier to ensure orders are processed quickly and there will be more guidance on this shortly.
For concerned constituents, I also want to draw your attention to the significant wider support available for children and families at this time. The Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food programme ensures that thousands of disadvantaged children have access to enriching activities and nutritious healthy meals over the summer, and this summer the Department will be running the programme again. My ministerial department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have teamed up with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and charities like FareShare and WRAP to issue food support and food packages to those who need it.
These are just some of the measures the Government has put in place, specific to families and children, to try and make this exceptionally difficult time easier.
I do hope the information above reassures you that we are taking action to ensure no child will go hungry this summer and thank you again to those who took the time to raise this with me.