What parents and carers need to know about the national free school meals voucher scheme

The National Free School Meals Voucher scheme will go live week commencing 18 January.

For parents and carers who want to know more about it, here’s an overview of how the scheme works.

  • Every school has the option to use the national voucher scheme, but they also have the choice to put in place other arrangements. Your school will be able tell you how you will receive free school meal support.
  • The scheme will provide free school meal vouchers to cover the four-week period between 18 January – 12 February.
  • Schools will place the initial voucher orders on behalf of families between Monday and Wednesday next week. Your school will decide how often you receive your vouchers.
  • Once the order has been placed, families will either receive an email with an eCode which you can redeem for a supermarket eGift card or receive printed eGift cards from the school, if they have chosen to distribute them that way.
  • eCodes are 16-digit numbers which cannot be used directly with a supermarket and have to be redeemed first at www.freeschoolmeals.co.uk.
  • eGift cards are the vouchers that can be printed or shown on a phone to spend in store.
  • Some eGift cards can be spent online – for details of where you can do this please read our guide here.
  • There are eleven retailers participating on the scheme. You get to choose which one you want to spend your vouchers with when you redeem your eCode.
  • It may take up to four days after your school placed its order before you receive your eCode. Please check your email inbox as well as your junk mail folder.
  • If you haven’t received your eGift card it’s worth checking your junk or trash folder. If it hasn’t arrived after 24 hours you can re-order by completing the form here.
  • Free school meals vouchers can only be used for food and groceries. They should not be redeemed for any non-food items such as electronic goods, clothing or media, or any age-restricted items, such as alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets.
  • For questions about eligibility frequency or value of the vouchers, please contact your school in the first instance.

For further details about how the scheme works, using an eCode or eGift cards we have produced a user guide here and a full list of frequently asked questions here.

Change4Life have created recipes and shopping lists which can be used to make lunches for around £15 each week. For more information, please click here

eCode redemption user guide


My eCode hasn't arrived

My eGift card hasn't arrived

Participating food outlets include:

Asda Morrisons M and S Tesco Waitrose Sainsbury's Aldi McColls Farmfoods Iceland