Free school meals scheme extended to cover summer break

Published: Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Thousands of Wandsworth schoolchildren will continue to receive free meals over the school summer holidays, the council has confirmed.

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Around 8,400 children will be able to enjoy a nutritious lunch during the summer break with their parents given supermarket food vouchers to replace free school meals.

Unlike some boroughs where food parcels are being distributed, parents in Wandsworth whose children are eligible for help can download vouchers from the dedicated Wonde app (pictured below). These can then be exchanged for food at the supermarket of their choice.

The council’s voucher scheme was first launched in May last year at the start of the pandemic. It was the first of its type in the country to swing into action and start delivering vouchers. Within two days of liaising with its online voucher partner, the council’s scheme was operational and fully compliant with data protection laws.

Since then it has delivered tens of thousands of food vouchers to families on lower incomes.

Families who qualify for this support will be contacted directly by their schools. They do not need to apply for the help.

Stella Smith, headteacher of Falconbrook Primary School, said: “The impact of the council’s Wonde voucher scheme for our FSM children has been wonderful. Our children no longer go hungry during the holidays, parents are understandably very relieved. Part of the Wonde system’s success lies in its simplicity and ease of use. Vouchers are delivered by text. This has helped our parents to navigate the system. Thank you.

Wandsworth’s cabinet member for education and children’s services Cllr Will Sweet said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic we have been hugely mindful of the need to continue to support children who receive free school meals.  We were absolutely determined to make sure that these children did not go hungry because they weren’t at school.

“And we made the very early decision that we needed to continue this support over the school holidays. Our priority throughout has been to make sure Wandsworth children are safe, healthy and properly fed.

“Our voucher scheme delivers the funding directly to where it’s needed and allows parents to decide what their child would like for lunch. Parents know what’s best for their own children, which is why in Wandsworth we give them vouchers, not food parcels.” 

The council will also again be running its popular Summer Unlocked scheme for children in receipt of free school meals, offering fun activities, tutoring and free lunches.

Other forms of help the council has provided to families during the pandemic includes thousands of laptops and data vouchers so that children are not digitally excluded. Some have been provided directly by the council, and others as part of the Power to Connect partnership between the council and Battersea Power Station. 

And for families who may need additional financial support, grants are available from the borough’s discretionary social fund. These crisis grants are designed to cover the cost of food and fuel and do not need to be paid back.

Families can also visit the council’s Thrive Wandsworth website for Coronavirus information and support for families, including learning resources, grants and benefits, sources of help, information about local services and advice for parents of children with learning disabilities.