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Supermarket Vouchers for Free School Meals Aren’t Working Properly

Numerous families are reporting the coupons failing at tills

Supermarket food vouchers for coronavirus food poverty aren’t working
Vouchers are failing at supermarket checkouts
Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Pressure grows on government’s handling of food insecurity

A growing number of families are reporting problems with supermarket vouchers designed to replace free school meals while schools are closed. Parents have told the BBC of the “humiliation” of having to walk away from tills without food, left to wait at least a week for replacement vouchers from the local school running the programme.

The replacement programme has already come in for criticism over its limitations on supermarkets included. Private contractor Edenred’s scheme entitles each child to £15 in vouchers per week, but their parents must choose from Aldi, McColl’s, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, and M&S when redeeming them, and sometimes it’s the schools, not the parents making the decision. This can artificially create, or broaden food deserts, by limiting the availability of food.

Multiple schools across the country in London, Bolton, Cornwall, the West Midlands have confirmed the problems, which are magnified by coronavirus’ exacerbation of food insecurity. Food banks are experiencing sustained, cataclysmic waves of demand: the Trussell Trust provided 81 percent more emergency food parcels in the last two weeks of March than in the equivalent period of 2019 and describing the situation as a “tidal wave.” [BBC]

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