Britain's Co-operative Group has announced plans to provide free meals to students in schools across the UK through a gift card scheme.
The initiative aims to help families that are facing difficulties in accessing nutritious meals for children following the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the UK, around 1.3 million students are eligible for free meals in schools.
The government is providing schools that are closed or have stopped catering an allowance of £15 per week per eligible student to fund free meals.
Chief commercial officer of the company, Michael Fletcher, commented, “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 fewer pupils in attendance.”
The scheme introduced by the Co-operative allows schools to purchase gift cards directly from the convenience retailer, the company said.
The gift cards can be redeemed by parents in any of the retailer's 2,600 community stores and remotely topped up for reuse.
Fletcher added, “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.”
The secretary of state for education in the UK, Gavin Williamson, stated that the government is to provide full reimbursement to schools purchasing gift cards from the Co-operative.