Wednesday 8 July 2020

Free School Meals during lockdown


Free school meals first appeared in Manchester in 1879, another reason to be proud of my Mancunian heritage! However, it took until 1906 for the Liberal government to introduce legislation allowing local authorities to provide meals. Due to the lack of provision more legislation in 1944 made it compulsory for all authorities to supply nutritious meals for all pupils. Over the 1980s and 1990s the emphasis switched to keeping meals as cheap as possible and making it harder to qualify. It wasn't until 2001 that food standards improved again.

The way they are administered as also change. It used to be obvious which children were getting their school meal for free which caused embarrassment for some. Nowadays, in normal times, lunch systems are electronic and pupils are credited each day. No one needs to know who isn't paying for their own food.

During lockdown most children have not been in school and so new systems have been developed.  Some schools chose to make food packs for pupils in receipt of free school meals. Others made use of the government voucher scheme with supermarkets. Like any new government computer system this had big flaws to start with.

Like many families an extended period of furlough, with vastly reduced income from both employment (as a supply teacher) and self employment, has pushed us under the threshold for eligibility for free school meals for my son. I applied via my county council and this week I was sent an e-mail to claim the vouchers for 3 weeks. The web site gave me a choice of a range of supermarkets. As I shop at Asda and Morrisons I selected these two.

Asda e-gift card

The Asda one is very flexible and I was able to use it when I did our click and collect order. I just had to add in the code and the PIN at the checkout.

Morrisons e-gift card

The Morrisons one can only be used in the store which is less flexible. I also hadn't got it up and ready on my phone before I got to the checkout... It was a good job there wasn't any one behind us!

As my furlough has been confirmed until the end of August I am grateful that Marcus Rashford successfully campaigned for free school meals to continue over the school holidays. This means one less thing to worry about whilst seeking out a permanent job.


  1. Free school meals is great. Just as long as they don't make him, or any other kids, drink free milk from pyramid cartons (or miniature bottles) that have been sitting in the stuffy classroom all morning. I used to dread morning playtime and the warm milk.

  2. that put me off milk until I was an adult!


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