Thank you for writing to me about food parcels and related matters.
To help families through the pandemic, a vast package of support has been brought in. The national free school meal (FSM) voucher scheme last year meant eligible children continued to receive food when schools were closed, and for the first time ever FSM were funded to continue during the holidays. I welcome that during the current lockdown eligible children are being supported with food parcels from their schools, and where this is not possible the voucher scheme is returning.
I am aware that concerns have been raised over the quality and quantity of the food provided. The Prime Minister and Education Secretary have both made clear that the quality of some of the parcels provided is wholly unacceptable, and I completely agree. It is my understanding that the Department for Education is investigating these reports, and I welcome that the Children’s Minister has committed to look into the matter urgently.
From 18th January, schools can once again use the Department for Education’s national voucher scheme, which supplies families with vouchers worth £15 which can be redeemed weekly, or across a number of weeks, in some of the UK’s leading supermarkets, giving parents greater choice and flexibility and helping to support some of the most disadvantaged families.
For more information please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/national-free-school-meals-voucher-scheme-opens-to-orders
The Government recognises the extra costs of distribution schools face in delivering free lunch parcels to pupils at home, and has announced additional funding so schools now receive £15 per eligible child per week to fund this provision whilst schools remain closed.
I am very pleased that an extension to the Holiday Activities and Food Programme has been announced until Christmas 2021, with up to £220 million to be invested. This will mean all children eligible for FSM will have the option to join a holiday-time programme that provides healthy food and fun activities during the summer, Christmas and Easter holidays. This is alongside the £170 million COVID Winter Food fund, ensuring that the most vulnerable in society are supported throughout this challenging time.
Thank you again for writing to me about these important matters.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking