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Free School Meals During the Corona Virus Outbreak

Date published: Date modified: 2022-10-25

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many schools are concerned about the impact on pupils who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals.

Even though the majority of schools are currently closed, the DfE have announced that schools should continue to support these children with the benefit of free school meals.

This blog outlines approaches that schools can adopt to to provide support to their pupils.

National Voucher Scheme:

The Department for Education has developed a centrally funded national voucher scheme, to support pupils that are eligible for free school meals. The DfE stated in late March that all schools will receive an email from the department supplier Edenred which highlights the process of accessing and administering the voucher scheme locally. These vouchers can be used by parents in various supermarkets as an alternative to the pupil’s daily school meal.

Accessing the Vouchers: You should be able to access the vouchers using the Edenred portal, which should be highlighted in the email. As soon as your account is activated, you can begin creating vouchers. These vouchers can be created as weekly single vouchers worth £15 for every child eligible for benefits related free school meals. You can also set this as a weekly £15 rolling voucher. You will also be given the option to combine funding for families with more than one eligible child. These vouchers can then be directly sent as an ‘eCode’ to the parent or carer of the pupil(s), who will then be required to choose an eGift card from a range of supermarkets.

Under the national voucher scheme, schools will be able to order vouchers and the payments will be met centrally by the DfE. It would appear a number of schools and academies have not received an email to activate the scheme, in this instance you must contact the DfE directly to resolve, it may be that the DfE does not have the correct contact details.

Alternative Approaches:

As an alternative approach, the DfE have advised schools to contact their catering teams or providers to see if they can prepare meals or food parcels which can be delivered to or collected by families.

It is important to check with the catering services, as they may have certain schemes in operation to provide meals and food parcels to vulnerable groups affected by corona virus.

There is guidance available on the DfE website highlighting how schools can be compensated if any additional costs are incurred for the provision of free school meals to pupils affected by Corona virus.

It is important to note that the government will continue to provide schools with their expected funding, which includes funding towards the provision of free school meals during the school closure.

If you would like to find out more information regarding this, follow the link below to view the DfE website outlining further details:


It is important to provide continued support for pupils who may need assistance during these uncertain times.

Be sure to stay updated with the guidance from the DfE allowing you to continue supporting pupils during this unexpected school closure.

If you need any further assistance or advice we are, as ever, available.

Contact Us

Here are some of our other articles that may be useful:

New Funding to Support Disadvantaged children and young people

How school's could get back to "Normality"

DfE COVID-19 Funding Arrangements Update

Top 10 Tips for School and Academy Finance Staff


By SAAF Finance
SAAF Education 340 110

12 June 2020



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