12 January 2021 12:43
The company at the centre of a storm over "woefully inadequate" free school meal parcels sent to families is headed up by a Buckinghamshire man. The government has promised to investigate after images shared online appeared to show a paltry free school meal parcel apparently provided by Chartwells. Chartwells is part of the food service giant Compass Group and its managing director is Charlie Brown. Children's Minister Vicky Ford said she would be "urgently" look into the matter after one mother posted an image of a £30 parcel which was estimated to contain just over £5 worth of food. Sharing the image, Twitter user Roadside Mum said: "2 days jacket potato with beans, 8 single cheese sandwiches, 2 days carrots, 3 days apples, 2 days soreen, 3 days frubes.
Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford tweeted another picture and wrote: "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." The Department for Education wrote on Twitter: "We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed. He tweeted: "The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a disgrace. After announcing her plans to investigate, Ms Ford also defended the use of parcels instead of vouchers for families in need.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has this morning tweeted: "The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a disgrace. The Department of Health said it was investigating after images posted on social media showed only a small number of food items sent to families in some council areas. The Department for Education has said it is investigating images on social media purporting to show 'free school meals' sent to families during lockdown. Marcus Rashford has criticised free school meal packages being sent to some children and families learning from home. The parcels, which have been sent to children who would normally qualify for free school meals and are now learning remotely during the national lockdown, have been criticised online by parents.
One tweet showed a package, supposedly containing £30 worth of food to last for 10 days, comprising just a loaf of bread, some cheese, a tin of beans, two carrots, two bananas, three apples, two potatoes, a bag of pasta, three Frubes, two Soreen bars and a tomato. In response to another post, the Manchester United striker and anti-poverty campaigner tweeted: "3 days of food for 1 family … Just not good enough". In a later tweet, he added: "Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home. 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... This is 2021 — Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 11, 2021 In response, the Department for Education tweeted: "We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed." The children's minister, Vicky Ford, said she would be "urgently" look into the matter. Chartwells, the company which she said provided the parcel meant to last for 10 days, said it would investigate. The Labour leader tweeted: "The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a disgrace. Rashford forced the government into a U-turn in June over the provision of free school meals for children during the summer holidays. He forced the government's hand on child hunger once again in the autumn on expanding the free school meals programme through subsequent school holidays. The Department for Education said it was also investigating the matter following Rashford's tweets: "We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed. Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food." But the local government minister Simon Clarke, who voted against giving vouchers to help feed children during the school holidays, citing the billions the government had put into the welfare system during the pandemic, appeared to accuse the England star of "seeking to whip a storm up on Twitter". The government guidelines urge schools to work with their catering teams or food provider to provide parcels to eligible pupils who are learning from home. The guidelines state that the packages should contain food items as opposed to pre-prepared meals so parents can make healthy lunches for their children. An infuriated mum has shared a picture of the Free School Meals bag she received in place of £30 vouchers, that she says she could have got from Asda for £5.22. Twitter user Roadside Mum shared the contents of the 'hamper', which is supposed to last 10 days, that contained two potatoes, one tin of beans, cheese singles, two carrots, three apples, three frubes, two soreen, some bread and some pasta. The mum then gave the prices for the items at Asda, finding that the package could have been bought from the supermarket for £5.22, yet cost the government £30. Chartwells, the company who issued the 'hamper' replied to Roadside Mum stating that they would investigate the situation. The mum was issued the package of food in placement of the £30 voucher she was receiving before, to fund one child's lunches for 10 days. Footballer Marcus Rashford MBE, who has championed the need for Free School Meals and is dedicated to ending food poverty called the package 'unacceptable', in his response on Twitter: "If families are entitled to £30 worth of food, why is there [sic] delivery equating to just over £5?!" Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer shared the mum's frustrations in his response on Twitter. He said: "The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a disgrace. This needs sorting immediately so families don't go hungry through lockdown."