A new voucher scheme to help the thousands of the city’s pupils who are entitled to free school meals obtain food during the coronavirus crisis has been launched in Bristol.
Families will receive weekly vouchers of £15 to use to buy food for children from major retailers including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrison’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencers.
More than half of the city’s schools have already joined the initiative, which will see free school meal vouchers provided to the families and carers of more than 7,000 pupils.
All of Bristol’s schools were invited to join the scheme, with some making their own arrangements and the council also contacting schools that hadn’t responded to the invitation to ensure that they have free school meals provision in place.
Parents and carers will this week receive letters from their school advising on how to download their vouchers, allowing them to go online and select one of the retailers to shop with. The voucher will be instantly sent to their email address, allowing them to download it to their smartphone or print it out for use in store.
For families or carers without email addresses or smartphones, schools can redeem vouchers on their behalf, to be printed and distributed by hand or tracked post.
They will initially receive vouchers totalling £45, taking into account the three weeks up to the end of the Easter holiday period.
Councillor Anna Keen, the Cabinet member for Education and Skills, explained:
“We understand the current situation with coronavirus means it can be an uncertain and unsettling time for many families and young people across the city and the needs of pupils needing free school meals are a priority.
“More than 4,000 free school meal food parcels were delivered to schools last week and we salute the huge effort put in by schools, during what are unprecedented and challenging times, to ensure they were distributed to families in need.
“This new voucher service is a safer and more convenient way of meeting the needs of the families of pupils that are entitled to free school meals to access the food they need.’’
Bristol City Council will review the scheme’s progress during the first three weeks with a view to adapting it to accept new pupils who may qualify for free school meals given their household’s changing financial situation.
For more information regarding the free school meals vouchers, watch the video from Councillor Anna Keen, Cabinet member for Education and Skills, explaining how the scheme works here.