Free school meals during lockdown beginning January 2021

18 Jan 2021

Update: More freedom for schools to choose how food can be provided and reintroduction of the national voucher scheme.

Latest government guidance updated 13 January: Guidance: Providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (GOV.UK)

Schools can work with their school catering team or food provider to provide lunch parcels to eligible free school meal pupils who are at home or use other local arrangements which might include vouchers for local shops and supermarkets.

The relaunched national voucher scheme will be available to access from the week commencing 18 January.

Any support provided since 4 January 2021 through food parcels or locally arranged vouchers can be claimed back from DfE.

Term-time vouchers

Blackhawk Network, the provider for Ealing’s Winter Grant Scheme vouchers, can offer term-time vouchers where schools would like to use this service. For more information contact Cassandra Beattie, Senior business development manager at Blackhawk by email

FSM costs

DfE advise that schools will continue to receive their expected funding for benefits-related free school meals throughout this period. To recognise the additional cost of provision for pupils at home, schools will be able to claim additional funding:

  • Up to £3.50 per eligible pupil, per week, where food parcels are being provided – DfE strongly encourage this approach where it is feasible
  • Up to £15 per eligible pupil, per week, where vouchers for local shops or supermarkets are being provided.

Please note that you can use a mixture of vouchers and lunch parcels if different options suit different families better.

Further details on how and when additional costs can be reclaimed will be provided shortly.

DfE advise that schools should be assured that valid claims for costs will be met in full.

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Last updated: 18 Jan 2021

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