Schools can order gift cards directly from Co-op for use in any of its 2,600 community stores
The cards can be topped up remotely, allowing parents to keep the one gift card
Co-op is stepping in to offer free school meals across the UK with a gift card scheme for eligible families.
The mutual sought a guarantee from the government to reimburse schools for buying the gift cards from their local Co-op stores.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson told a recent select committee meeting schools would be fully reimbursed and refunded for purchasing gift cards from Co-op, if schools were serving a community where the only store is a Co-operative.
It means schools can order gift cards directly from the convenience retailer for use in any of its 2,600 community stores. The cards can be topped up remotely, allowing parents to keep the one gift card. This top-up can be done on any day the schools choose, and the value and frequency are controlled by the school. Top-ups can be done several weeks in advance if required.
About 1.3 million pupils are eligible for free school meals, but with school closures many families are finding it harder to access nutritious meals. During the coronavirus crisis, if the school is closed, or the school catering team cannot provide meals, the government is providing schools with an allowance of £15 a week per pupil to fund free school meals for eligible pupils.
“Our schools are working hard to support the nation as we all pull together,” said Co-op chief commercial officer Michael Fletcher. “It is a challenge for them to feed pupils who are eligible for free school meals when they may not be in school or in circumstances where normal school catering services have stopped because there are less pupils in attendance.
“Our store colleagues have rolled their sleeves up to feed the nation and we think it’s important that vulnerable children who are eligible for free school meals don’t go hungry. We are delighted to be able to help and support the schools and children in the communities we serve.”
Schools seeking to join the scheme should contact email@example.com.
At the outset of the crisis, the Co-op announced the 6,500 students at the 25 Co-op Academies, who qualify for free school meals, would get £20 to spend in Co-op food stores for every week the schools are closed.