As part of its chartible work during the coronavirus pandemic, British retailer Co-op says it will support schools across the UK by provide free meals to eligible pupils through a gift card scheme after seeking Government approval to guarantee school reimbursement.
Co-op says many families are struggling to gain access to nutritious meals, as the nearly 1.3 million pupils who are eligible for free school meals are at home because of school closures.
The UK Government is providing schools with an allowance of £15 a week per pupil to fund free school meals for eligible pupils during the pandemic if a school is closed or if a school's catering team cannot provide meals. Co-op says with people being encouraged to stay home or minimise transport, the only options for local food may be their nearest store.
“Our schools are working hard to support the nation as we all pull together," Michael Fletcher, Chief Commercial Officer, Co-op, said. "It is a challenge for them to feed pupils who are eligible for free school meals when they may not be in school or in circumstances where normal school catering services have stopped because there are less pupils in attendance.”
“Our store colleagues have rolled their sleeves up to feed the nation and we think it’s important that vulnerable children who are eligible for free school meals don’t go hungry. We are delighted to be able to help and support the schools and children in the communities we serve."
Establishing this parallel scheme and providing access to gift cards which can be redeemed at the convenience store, will allow many more children to continue to benefit.
Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education stated in the Education Select committee meeting, said schools will be fully reimbursed and refunded for purchasing gift cards from Co-op. This new announcement will mean schools can now order gift cards directly from the convenience retailer for use in any of its 2,600 community stores and they can then be remotely topped up, so parents can continuously keep the one gift card.
Schools seeking to join the scheme should contact [email protected]