Food parcels sent to schoolchildren are 'completely unacceptable,' government admits

The food parcel received by a parent

The food parcel received by a parent

Households with children that would usually qualify for food at school have been given the option of parcels to prepare at home but there has been a huge amount of backlash. Now the United Kingdom 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).

It says: 'We strongly encourage schools to work with their school catering team or food provider to provide food parcels to eligible free school meal pupils who are at home'. Many on Twitter have also raised concerns.

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. It said that the picture "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".

Under the free school meals scheme, which was extended by the government a year ago after a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, families are entitled to vouchers worth £30 to purchase food.

But as @RoadsideMum pointed out, the parcel in the image contains about £5 ($6) worth of food, mapping out the costs as if bought from supermarket chain Asda.

She tweeted: 'We've increased funding for parcels and will support local vouchers.

Foodwriter Jack Monroe, who describes herself as a "former foodbank mum turned accidental activist", described the parcels as "offensively meagre scraps".

The private company contracted by the government to produce the dismal food parcels, meant to feed a child for ten days, is called Chartwells. Following demonstrations, an open letter and a lot of fundraising, an agreement was reached between Chartwells and the university to place staff on furlough until March 2021.

Chartwells responded to the image tweeted by @RoadsideMum claiming that the image "does not reflect the specification" of their hampers.

Speaking to Channel 4 on Tuesday night, Tory MP for Mid Derbyshire Pauline Latham has defended the government's policy on free school meals, saying "it's only their lunch".

It is unclear which company supplied the parcels in the above two photos.

We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed.

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.

Following Rashford's successful campaign to end child hunger over lockdown and the Christmas and summer holidays, parents have now criticised the contents of the meal packages online calling the contents "woefully inadequate" and "unacceptable" after sharing photos on Twitter.

She said: "If the government is allowing companies to make money by providing cut price meals for hungry children we will fight for change". "Children shouldn't be going hungry on the basis that we aren't communicating or being transparent with plans".

He tweeted: "The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a disgrace".

Meanwhile, Dr Max Davie, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said the contents of the food parcels were "not nutritionally sufficient for children and young people".

The Department for Education, the spokesperson added, will revert to a food voucher scheme like the one deployed during the UK's first lockdown.

The Independent has contacted Chartwells for further comment.

This story is developing.

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