High street retailer Marks & Spencer has announced it will add a fiver to every £15 free school meal voucher spent in their stores. Low-income families who are entitled to free school meals when schools are open can claim the vouchers to help pay for children’s lunches while schools remain closed.
This means parents can purchase £20 worth of food with their voucher when it is redeemed at any branch of M&S.
The state-funded vouchers can also be spent at a number of different supermarkets including Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
To benefit from the £5 voucher boost, caregivers should exchange their eVoucher, issued via the free school meals scheme, to get a gift card from M&S with the extra fiver preloaded onto it.
The supermarket has also created a downloadable meal planner that includes inspiration and ideas for nutritious breakfasts and lunches, such as pear porridge and superhero omelettes.
The free school meals scheme is backed by premier footballer, Marcus Rashford, who highlighted the importance of supporting low-income families to feed their children.
The Manchester United striker who received an MBE in the Queen’s Honours List, revealed he relied on free breakfasts as a child and said he was “confident” there will be a “great response from those most vulnerable”.
He commented: “Education is the most effective means of breaking cycles of hardship in some respects but education is only achievable with strong engagement and concentration.
“Unfortunately for the majority, hunger does not allow that. I thank M&S for taking the strong initiative to support the uplift of the vouchers to cover an essential meal of the day.”
The Marks & Spencers voucher boost will be a welcome piece of good news for parents, after a week of negativity surrounding the scheme—as families shared photos of meagre food parcels that they had received from school meals supplier Chartwells.
Following the social media backlash, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson described the lunch packages to be a “scandal and disgrace”.
He added that parents will be able to use the free school meals voucher programme again from Monday to shop for items for their kids’ lunches themselves.