NATIONAL free school meal vouchers will be available from next week, it has been revealed.

The announcement comes just one day after the government were called to urgently roll out its national voucher scheme after images shared on social media showed poor quality and low value packages sent to families during the lockdown.

Parents, headteachers and school staff have all shared pictures of the free school meal provisions given to pupils this week.

The images, posted on social media, show the lunches provided to some of the 1.3 million disadvantaged children who are eligible for the scheme.

Today Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast the meals provided were ' clearly inadequate'. 

He stated: “Well it’s clearly inadequate isn’t it? The company’s apologised and rightly so.

“Frankly, this is one of the good things about social media, this could surface so quickly, and then colleagues in the Department for Education (DfE) were on it straight away. And they spoke to the company immediately and the company have apologised and it got sorted out.

“I think it’s good that we’re able to provide free school meals, even when the schools aren’t in, but obviously they’ve got to be decent meals and this wasn’t.

“If you’re told you’re getting a free school meal, even whilst you’re at home, and then that comes through the door, I can imagine how it makes you feel, of course.”

DfE guidance says schools should work with their catering team or food provider to provide parcels to eligible children at home during the lockdown.

The guidance, updated on Wednesday January 13, says schools can also provide meals by issuing vouchers for a local shop or supermarket, or by using the DfE’s national voucher scheme from next Monday, January 18.

The update comes after Max Davie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the Government needs to get the money for food into the pockets of families.

He told BBC Breakfast: “This is almost the third time we have messed up the basics of providing decent food for vulnerable children.

“It isn’t rocket science, you just have to get the money into the pockets of the families so they can buy food for their children.”

Social media campaigners have welcomes the decision this morning.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told a committee of MPs he was “absolutely disgusted” after seeing a picture of a meagre food parcel delivered to a disabled mother of two.

He promised the Government would “name and shame” companies not delivering against standards.

Mr Williamson said it had been made clear to Chartwells, the company that provided the pictured parcel, as well as the entire education food sector that such behaviour “will not be tolerated”.

“We will not live with that,” he added.