Schoolchildren in Northumberland who qualify for free school meals are benefitting from a council-backed voucher programe to help ensure children continue to receive nutritious meals at home.
Northumberland's Conservative-led council authority introduced a targeted scheme to provide food vouchers during the last October half-term. Following the success of that scheme, the council worked to ensure that a countywide plan was in place for the last Christmas break, and this has been extended for children learning from home due to the national lockdown.
Over 9500 eligible children across the county will benefit from the £15 vouchers which can be used by parents and carers to provide nutritious meals for their children. The vouchers are supported by the government who provided additional funds to councils to provide services that alleviated the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Department for Education guidance last year stated that the vouchers must only be used for food and must not be redeemed for any age-restricted items, such as alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets. Ministers wrote to participating supermarkets to ensure their support in relation to these restrictions.
Councillor Guy Renner-Thompson, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said:
“There has been a lot of coverage on social media lately over the quality of some food parcels going out across the UK. Here in Northumberland we have set up a very successful £15 per week voucher scheme which has been adopted by 95% of our schools. The platform is managed by the council which takes that burden away from schools and ensures the child gets every penny of Government funding.
“Schools do not normally provide free school meals to children who are not in school. But during national lockdown, schools are expected to continue supporting children who are at home during term time. Being full, fit and healthy is imperative to good learning and the steps we have taken will ensure no child is left behind by lockdown.”