Coronavirus: Food vouchers to help kids on free school meals

Last updated at 05:20
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Coronavirus: What is the government doing to keep children fed?

Coronavirus has stopped some people from being able to work which means there is less money for many households across the country.

This has a big impact on lots of people, including children.

Today, the government announced some extra help to make sure children are getting healthy food to eat.

Families in England with children who get free meals at school will now be given vouchers to use in supermarkets worth £15 a week per child.

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The Feeding Britain charity has some advice
What are free school meals?

Around 1.3 million in children in England have free school meals, which means they don't have to pay for their food at lunch time.

It is available to families living in poverty and provides support to children from low-income families.

No child should go hungry as a result of the measures introduced to keep people at home

Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary

Earlier this month schools in the UK were forced to close which has led people to worry about whether these children will have enough food.

Until today's announcement, schools have been making their own arrangements to provide food to children on free school meals.

How will the vouchers help?
dinnersGetty Images
Some schools will continue to give meals to the children who still attend

Schools will be able to continue to provide meals for collection or delivery themselves, but where this is not possible the voucher system will ensure that children do not lose out.

The scheme will allow schools to issue vouchers worth £15 a week per child.

However, some head teachers have warned that even with the vouchers, some parents will struggle to feed their children.

But the Department for Education says the amount they are giving is more than what is normally paid to schools for free school meals.

Newsround spoke to Vicky Ford, the Minister for Children and Families, about the scheme.

Vicky FordUK Parliament
Vicky Ford is the Minister for Children and Families,

"In the supermarkets you can buy a considerable amount of food if you shop creatively and we are also looking at lots of ways to provide advice about healthy meals and easy ways to cook for that money," she said.

Speaking about how long the voucher scheme will last she said it "is designed to last for as long as the schools are closed".

When asked about how the government is reassuring children who are worried about going hungry, she added: "If you are concerned, please do get in touch with the school and make sure this system is working.

"If there are vulnerable children out there - they should be in school. That is why we have kept the school open for them so do stay in touch."

There may be some kinks to work out of the scheme … but at least there is some certainty available now

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers
What is the situation across the UK?
empty dinner hallGetty Images
Empty schools mean empty dinner halls
  • In Scotland, the government has said that all children who receive free school meals will still receive them through the work of local councils
  • The Welsh government is developing a national voucher scheme for children who receive free school meals but - in the meantime - schools and local councils have to provide meals throughout the Easter break
  • In Northern Ireland, the government will pay money directly to families whose children normally get free school meals.