The Co-op will be providing free meals to eligible school children through a gift card scheme.

Around 1.3m pupils are eligible for free school meals but because of 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.

At a time when people are being encouraged to stay at home, minimise transport, especially public transport and stay local, Co-op can often be the nearest, and many times, the only food store for families.

Providing access to gift cards which can be redeemed at the convenience store, will allow many more children to continue to benefit.

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education stated in the Education Select committee meeting that schools will be fully reimbursed and refunded for purchasing gift cards from Co-op.

This new announcement will mean schools can now order gift cards directly from the convenience retailer for use in any of its 2,600 community stores and they can then be remotely topped up, so parents can continuously keep the one gift card.

Michael Fletcher, Chief Commercial Officer, Co-op, said: “Our schools are working hard to support the nation as we all pull together. 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