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Schools will be able to apply to receive free school meal vouchers instead of receiving food parcels for children from January 18, the Department of Education has confirmed.
The vouchers will be redeemable at many UK supermarkets, and will provide £15 per week for each child who that is eligible for free school meals.
The food parcels provided by company Chartwells have been heavily criticised over the past few days after pictures emerged showing the amount of food that was being provided to struggling families.
Footballer Marcus Rashford, who has ardently campaigned for the provision of free schools meals to children, despite opposition from Conservative MPs - many within the cabinet - expressed his disappointment at seeing one such parcel.
Rashford wrote: "3 days of food for 1 family...Just not good enough.
"Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home. Not to mention the parents who, at times, have to teach them who probably haven't eaten at all so their children can...
"We MUST do better. This is 2021."
Children deserve better than this...
- Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 11, 2021
In order to redeem the vouchers, schools will be contacted by supplier Edenred before January 14, where they will be prompted to reset their password or activate their account if it has not been used before.
Once that is done, an email will be sent through to confirm when the schools can begin to order vouchers during the week commencing January 18.
Schools can 'order a single voucher to cover multiple weeks, for example, a £30 voucher to cover one eligible child over 2 weeks', 'order a single voucher to cover more than one eligible child within the same household, for example, £60 to support 2 eligible children over 2 weeks' or 'set a weekly £15 rolling voucher, up to the week commencing 8 February'.
Those vouchers can then be transferred via an eCode or an eGift card to parents, who can use them to buy food at shops such as Aldi, Iceland, Morrisons, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's , Waitrose, McColl's, Company Shop Group, and M&S.
Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said: "The photos being shared on social media today are completely unacceptable and do not reflect the high standard of free school meals we expect to be sent to children.
"Chartwells has rightly apologised and admitted the parcel in question was not good enough. I met their Managing Director earlier today and he has assured me they have taken immediate action to stop further deliveries of poor-quality parcels. They will ensure schools affected are compensated and they will provide additional food to the eligible child in line with our increased funding.
"In the meantime, Government will be demanding that all caterers meet the standards set and are delivering high quality lunches they are providing to eligible children - by doing this we will make sure every one of them receives a healthy and nutritious lunch that will give them the fuel they need to focus on learning at home.
"We will set out further details tomorrow."
Reimbursed costs will be backdated to January 4 , when schools were closed to all but the children of key workers and vulnerable children.
Full information on how the vouchers can be claimed is on the government's website.
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