Parents hit out at 'meagre' free school meal £30 parcels 'worth under a fiver'

·News Reporter
·5-min read
An example of one package. (@BootstrapCook/Anonymous submission)
An example of one package. (@BootstrapCook/Anonymous submission)

Angry parents and campaigners have criticised photos of “woefully inadequate” free school meals that have appeared on social media.

Pictures showing sparse packages have been posted to Twitter, including one from a user whose family’s £30 parcel was estimated to hold just over £5 of food.

Roadside Mum’s image shows a loaf of bread, can of beans, cheese and a small selection of fruit and vegetables – apparently to last for 10 lunches – leading to criticism from Downing Street, Labour and the footballer Marcus Rashford.

However, the company which supplied it said it was only a week’s worth valued at £10.50.

Read more: Closing primary schools my biggest regret from first COVID lockdown, Boris Johnson says

Free school meals are being sent to families as children learn from home, and Roadside Mum said they had been sent the package instead of £30 vouchers.

The Twitter user said they would have been able to buy more food if they had been given the £30 instead.

Chartwells, which supplied the food, said: “We have had time to investigate the picture circulated on Twitter.

“For clarity this shows five days of free school lunches (not ten days) and the charge for food, packing and distribution was actually £10.50 and not £30 as suggested.

“However, in our efforts to provide thousands of food parcels a week at extremely short notice we are very sorry the quantity has fallen short in this instance.

“Our ten-day hampers typically include a wide variety of nutritious food items to support the provision of lunches for children.”

However, in an interview with the Byline Times, Roadside Mum insisted the pack was intended to last 10 days.

The government has said it will investigate the meal offerings, which are provided by other suppliers too.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “The content of those food parcels are completely unacceptable.

“The DfE is looking into this urgently and the minister for children is speaking to the company responsible and making clear that boxes like this should not be given to families.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the problem needed fixing to avoid families going hungry.

Photos submitted by families were shared to activist Jack Monroe.

England and Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, who has been campaigning against food poverty, wrote on Twitter: “3 days of food for 1 family… Just not good enough.

“Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home.

“Not to mention the parents who, at times, have to teach them who probably haven’t eaten at all so their children can… We MUST do better.”

Watch: Rashford forces government u-turn on free school meals

He has since tweeted that he has spoken with Chartwells, which is meeting with the Department of Education on Tuesday.

Dr Max Davie, officer for health improvement Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, wrote to education secretary Gavin Williamson and said the photos showed food amounts that were “not nutritionally sufficient for children and young people”.

“Children who rely on free school meals have worse health outcomes than their peers and deserve proper help. The examples shared are an insult to the dignity of people who rely on this support,” he wrote.

Children’s minister Vicky Ford said she would investigate “urgently” while the DfE said its “clear guidelines” mean packages should be “nutritious and contain a varied range of food”.

Earlier, Chartwells said said hampers were put together last week based on the cost of free school meal allowances, which works out at £11.70 a week.

With that amount raised by another £3.50 a week by the Department for Education, hampers will be “enhanced” from later this week “to reflect this”.

A spokesperson said: “We take our responsibility to provide children with access to nutritious food very seriously.

“We have worked hard to produce food hampers at incredibly short notice during these challenging times.

“Our hampers follow the DfE specifications and contain a variety of ingredients to support families in providing meals throughout the week. In the majority of instances, we have received positive feedback.

“In this instance, the image on Twitter falls short of our hamper specification and we are keen to investigate with the relevant school so we can address any operational issues that may have arisen.”

Watch: The new lockdown rules

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting