95% of Northumberland schools involved in voucher scheme to provide free school meals for pupils

Eligible Northumberland schoolchildren are receiving food vouchers during lockdown, avoiding the parcel issues seen elsewhere.

By Ben O'Connell
Thursday, 14th January 2021, 12:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th January 2021, 12:58 pm

The quality and value of free school meals parcels being distributed to pupils across the country has been a major talking point this week, after parents shared pictures on social media of food boxes delivered during lockdown.

The Government’s free school meals allocation to schools is £11.50 per pupil per week, but schools can claim an extra £3.50 per week for each eligible pupil receiving provision at home – a total of £15 per child.

One supplier, Chartwells, had to issue an apology after one mum shared a picture of what was supposed to be £30-worth of food to last 10 days, but which she estimated to have a value of about £5, garnering widespread attention and anger.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Eligible Northumberland schoolchildren are receiving food vouchers during lockdown, avoiding the parcel issues seen elsewhere.

It prompted the Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been successfully campaigning during the pandemic on child hunger and poverty, to get involved again.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said some free school meal packages are “a scandal and a disgrace” but insisted they do not reflect the Government guidance.

In Northumberland, pupils in receipt of free school meals are continuing to use the arrangements set up by the council over the Christmas break, which the authority says were successful in ensuring all 9,500 eligible children received food.

Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, the council’s 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 county.

Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, the cabinet member for children’s services.

“Here in Northumberland, we have set up a very successful £15-per-week voucher scheme with the company HUGG, 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.”

Our reporter Kevin Clark spends £30 on food.

Read More

Read More
Sign our petition to include community pharmacies in Covid vaccine rollout

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers and consequently the advertising that we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news by buying a copy of our newspaper. If you can, please do pick up a copy when you are at the shops. Thank you for your support.