COVID Summer Food Fund

Guidance for schools and local authorities on providing vouchers to support pupils eligible for free school meals over the summer holiday period during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

This guidance was withdrawn on

This funding covered the 2020 summer holiday period.

Information about providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is available.

Applies to England

The latest update includes:

  • further information if schools provide food parcels
  • further information on free meals in further education

Due to the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we recognise families will face increased pressure on household budgets over the coming months. That is why we are launching a Covid Summer Food Fund which will enable children who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals to be supported over the summer holiday period.

The payments for the Covid Summer Food Fund will be met centrally by DfE. This is in addition to the free school meals national voucher scheme and will support children who usually receive benefits-related free school meals.

Ordering vouchers

Before ordering vouchers through the Covid Summer Food Fund, check which pupils are eligible and in receipt of benefits-related free school meals.

Please check that you have included orders for all eligible children and that you have entered correct email addresses for their parents or carers.

We will continue to monitor voucher orders at school level to check if they are ordered in line with our estimates of the number of eligible children. If a school’s orders are higher than expected, we may speak to the school about why this has occurred and will take forward any necessary action to rectify the position. A cross check will also be done for those making a claim for free school meals funding via the funding for exceptional costs associated with coronavirus (COVID-19).

Using the Edenred online portal

Schools will have received an email from Edenred for the free school meals national voucher scheme with an activation code and a step-by-step guide to using the online ordering portal.

If you have not yet activated your account, you will need to do so.

The Edenred portal, which schools have used to order vouchers as part of the national voucher scheme, will be used to order vouchers from the Covid Summer Food Fund.

Amounts you can order

Through the Covid Summer Food Fund, schools can support eligible pupils with a £90 voucher to cover the 6-week holiday period.

You must ensure that there is no duplication or overlap between Covid Summer Food Fund vouchers and any vouchers that you have ordered to cover free school meals during the summer term.

The scheme has been designed to offer a £90 voucher for the standard school summer holiday. If your school’s summer holiday lasts 7 full weeks (rather than 6), you can increase the voucher amount per child from £90 to £105.

Deadline for ordering

You must order the voucher at least one week before your school term ends, and it will be issued to the family within 7 days unless you have specified a distribution date further in the future. For example, schools closing on 17 July must place orders for all vouchers by 10 July.

If you choose a future distribution date, this must be before the end of the school term.

These dates are in place in recognition that schools operate to different term times and that school offices will be closed in the summer holidays.

In exceptional circumstances, you may decide to schedule a number of smaller vouchers to be sent to a family instead of a single £90 voucher. The total combined value of these vouchers cannot exceed £90 per eligible child. These vouchers must also be ordered at least one week before your school term ends. The first of these vouchers must be issued to families before the end of the school term, and the final voucher must be issued to families by 14 August. For example, you could order 3 vouchers for £30 to be issued to families every fortnight, on 15 July, 29 July and 12 August.

Sending the vouchers to parents or carers

Once you have confirmed the voucher’s value, you can either:

  • send the eCode directly to the parent or carers of the pupils(s) - they will need to choose an eGift card from a range of supermarkets
  • select an eGift card on the parent or carer’s behalf, and print and post the eGift card to them
  • select an eGift card on the parent or carer’s behalf, print the eGift card and arrange for families to collect it

After the scheme closes to orders one week before your school term ends, there will be a process to enable schools to rectify any errors on orders already placed (for example, if email addresses have been entered incorrectly).

Check your ordering details very carefully when submitting orders, including the email addresses of recipients.

For any Edenred queries, please email:

Supermarkets available

Through Edenred, you can access eGift cards for:

  • Aldi
  • Asda
  • Company Shop Group
  • Iceland, including The Food Warehouse Stores
  • M&S
  • McColl’s
  • Morrisons
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Tesco
  • Waitrose

Company Shop Group eGift cards are accepted in Community Shops and Company Shops. Further details can be found on their website.

Redeeming the vouchers

Once families have received their voucher, they will be able to redeem them in store at the selected retailer by either:

  • presenting the voucher on a smartphone or tablet
  • presenting a paper copy of the voucher

Guidance is available from Edenred for parents to help answer any questions they may have. The voucher does not have to be spent in full, in one transaction. To check how much money is left on the eGift card, parents can ask the supermarket’s customer services team when in store.

The vouchers must be used for food, and must not be redeemed for any age-restricted items, such as alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets.

Alternative support

Where eligible families would be unable to access any of the supermarkets available through using Edenred eGift cards, schools can make alternative voucher arrangements with a local supermarket that is not listed above.

Schools can claim for the £90 per pupil costs incurred in supporting benefits-related free school meal pupils through this alternative support during the summer holiday period. Schools can claim for this through the exceptional costs fund in the autumn, providing schools have ordered their vouchers one week before their school term ends.

Schools can also claim through the exceptional costs fund if they are arranging food parcels (rather than vouchers) for benefits-related free school meal pupils over the summer holidays. If schools arrange food parcels, these can only be ordered for children in receipt of free school meals before the summer holidays begin.

Further details on when and how schools can claim for this will be confirmed in due course. Read more about claiming for exceptional costs associated with coronavirus (COVID-19).

Eligibility for the scheme

Any child currently in receipt of benefits-related free school meals or who becomes eligible during the summer term is eligible for the Covid Summer Food Fund.

Schools should continue to accept and verify free school meal applications up until the end of the summer term.

The eligibility criteria for free school meals can be found at apply for free school meals.

If a school receives a claim for an eligible child after the final ordering date of at least one week before your school term ends but before the start of the school’s summer holidays, it will be possible for the school to place an exceptional order for that child via the Edenred system.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we are temporarily extending eligibility to include some groups who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). See guidance for the temporary extension of free school meals eligibility to NRPF groups for more information.

The government expects that families that have been supported by the Covid Summer Food Fund will not be accessing the Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for the same purpose. The criteria for the Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant is determined by local authorities.

Free meals for further education students

Due to the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we are providing extra funding to enable FE institutions to continue to provide free meal support for the 2020 summer holiday.

Further information is available on free meals in further education funded institutions for 2019 to 2020.

Support for families

Further government support is available for families struggling as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). If families need urgent help, they can contact their local council to find out what services are available in their area.

Healthy eating

When using the vouchers, families are free to select the most appropriate food and drink for their child.

We encourage families to consider making choices that contribute to a healthy balanced diet. The school food standards may act as a useful guide.

There are also a number of ideas and tips available online to support families in preparing healthy meals, including the Change4life recipes and NHS Eat Well website.

Published 25 June 2020
Last updated 13 July 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated with further information on providing food parcels and free meals in further education.

  2. We have added Company Shop Group and Iceland, including The Food Warehouse Stores, to list of supermarkets you can order eGift cards for. We have also added an example to show how you could schedule smaller gift cards.

  3. First published.