Cash and Voucher Assistance at Scale: Addressing food insecurity by supporting families in the Netherlands

With an increasing number of families experiencing financial trouble in the Netherlands, in September 2022, the Dutch parliament voted to allocate €100 million for free school meals in vulnerable neighbourhoods across the country. After the proposal was approved, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science selected the Netherlands Red Cross and the “Jeugdeducatiefonds” (Youth Education Fund) as partners to realize this project. The program commenced in March 2023, and is expected to run until December 2024 with the goal to provide as many children in need as possible with regular, nutritious meals so they can go to school with optimal health, wellbeing and focus. This is done in close cooperation between the three partners and through a variety of methods, tailored to the participating schools. While the Jeugdeducatiefonds distributes meals at school, the Netherlands Red Cross provides grocery cards with which participating parents can buy food for their children autonomously. Due to the anonymous – and autonomous – nature of this solution, the Netherlands Red Cross aims to reduce levels of shame and stigma around the topic of not being able to afford food by providing dignified assistance while safeguarding users’ personal information.  This case study addresses the particularities of this technical set-up in context of the School Meals programme, including the results it has yielded so far, and options for National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other organizations to replicate the set-up within their own contexts.