Photos of free school meal packages in the UK spark outrage online

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Photos showing food packages being sent to school children in the UK who are currently learning remotely have sparked outrage online, with many calling the parcels “shameful,” “cruel,” and “disgraceful.” 

The parcels have been sent to students who would qualify for free school meals when attending school in person. Currently the UK is in its third national lockdown, with the majority of children remote learning (with the exception of children of key workers, who are still going to school). 

Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United footballer and child food poverty campaigner, has heavily criticised the quality and quantity of the parcels, which have been provided by a government contractor called Chartwells, a food service company. Many on Twitter have also raised concerns. 

One of the photos, tweeted by @RoadsideMum, shows a parcel that is reportedly meant to include 10 days’ worth of food. The image shows a loaf of sliced bread, a tin of baked beans, single cheese slices, three apples, two carrots, one tomato, a packet of pasta, three yoghurt sachets, and two mini packets of malt loaf. 

#FreeSchoolMeals bag for 10 days:

2 days jacket potato with beans
8 single cheese sandwiches

2 days carrots
3 days apples
2 days soreen
3 days frubes

Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad.

Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest. pic.twitter.com/87LGUTHXEu

— Roadside Mum 🐯 (@RoadsideMum) January 11, 2021

The food parcels are supposed to contain the equivalent of £30 ($40) worth of food. Parents recently received a £30 voucher to cover food over the winter break, but during term time, food parcels are being distributed instead. But as @RoadsideMum pointed out, this parcel contains about £5 ($6) worth of food, mapping out the costs as if bought from supermarket chain Asda. This estimate was backed by Jack Monroe, the author of Tin Can Cook and activist known for campaigning about poverty, who replied agreeing “that’s about a fivers worth of food there.”

Mashable added up a similar estimate for the same items from another chain, Sainsburys, for comparison, and the total amount came to just under £11 — and this was using full prices per kilogram of fruits and vegetables, not individual items.

Priced via Asda:

Bread 89p
Beans 85p
Carrots 15p
Apples 42p
Potatoes 22p
Tomato 11p
Cheese £1.45
Frubes 33p
Pasta 10p
Soreen 40p
Bananas 30p

Public funds were charged £30. I’d have bought this for £5.22.

The private company who have the #FSM contract made good profit here.

— Roadside Mum 🐯 (@RoadsideMum) January 11, 2021

Further images have been circulating online highlighting the paucity of food provided in the parcels. 

Rashford, who spent most of 2020 campaigning against food poverty experienced by disadvantaged children during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has criticised the food parcels and has been in touch with Chartwells to get to the bottom of the issue. 

Children deserve better than this…

— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 11, 2021

Chartwells responded to the image tweeted by @RoadsideMum claiming that the image “does not reflect the specification” of their hampers. Mashable has reached out to Chartwells for comment but has not yet received a response. 

Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers. Please can you DM us the details of the school that your child attends and we will investigate immediately.

— Chartwells (@Chartwells_UK) January 11, 2021

The UK’s Department for Education has also responded stating that they are looking into the issue, and added that they have guidelines and standards for food parcels. “Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food,” they added. 

We are looking into this.

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.https://t.co/ZBdJZqxdfK https://t.co/9sfxHPX9RJ

— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) January 11, 2021

Rashford tweeted a thread of updates on the situation following a conversation with Chartwells. He said there is call between Chartwells and the Department for Education due to take place today. 

Wanted to share key points from a conversation with @Chartwells_UK this morning.
There is a meeting scheduled between Chartwells and @educationgovuk today.
(1)

— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 12, 2021

Rashford also expressed concern about the number of meals being distributed to children, which is currently just one meal per day from Monday to Friday. 

Information provided –

FSM Hampers are currently distributed to provide 10 lunch meals per child across 2 weeks.

This concerns me firstly as I relied on breakfast club, FSM and after-school clubs. Is 1 meal a day from Mon-Fri sufficient for children most vulnerable?

(2)

— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 12, 2021

Information provided –

Chartwell hampers feature a supporting recipe so that families can easily identify.

(5)

— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 12, 2021

Rashford tweeted that it’s clear “there was very little communication with the suppliers that a national lockdown was coming.” 

“We MUST do better,” he added. “Children shouldn’t be going hungry on the basis that we aren’t communicating or being transparent with plans. That is unacceptable.”

Rashford added that he has to sign off as he has a football match today, but will provide further updates once the call has taken place between the Department for Education and Chartwells. 

This story is developing…

This content was originally published here.

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