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Free school meals parcels criticised by Rashford and Starmer

Posted: 12 January 2021 | | No comments yet

Food parcels have been issued in certain areas instead of the vouchers, with some taking to Twitter to express outrage over the amount of food provided.

food parcels UK

Controversy has erupted in the UK over food parcels distributed to parents whose children would normally receive a free school meal.

Instead of a £30 voucher, in some areas food hampers are being handed out to families eligible for free school meals while schools in the UK remain closed. Some images shared on social media however claim that the amount of food supplied is not sufficient, with one mum suggesting she could buy a similar amount of produce for just over £5.

The Twitter user, who goes under the handle @RoadsideMum, claimed that she could have bought the food displayed in the ‘hamper’ for £5.22 from supermarket ASDA, despite the supposed value of £30. In another tweet, she claims the parcel was delivered by private firm Chartwells, though the company has since responded. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers,” a tweet from Chartwell’s read. “Please can you DM us the details of the school that your child attends and we will investigate immediately.”

Premier League star Marcus Rashford, who has campaigned for free school meals throughout the pandemic, shared another image of a suspected food parcel issued to another family, though it is unknown where this was issued. He questioned how well children can learn from home with this level of nutrition and demanded “we must do better. This is 2021”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer expressed his discontent, calling it “a disgrace” and asked: “where is the money going?”.

Aside from the amount and value of food provided, questions have been asked over the method of distribution, which in many cases involves parents queuing up at their child’s school to collect the food parcels. One Twitter user refused to participate, saying she felt as if she was “from a poorhouse waiting in line with a label round my neck”.

There is support from some corners for the new scheme however, which according to some Twitter users will ensure that the free school meals scheme delivers food to tables, rather than extra cash to parents. Concerns that parents will use vouchers meant for food shopping for other goods have been present since the voucher scheme began. Twitter users @injiduducu and @Sapper211A expressed fears that food vouchers, rather than parcels, could be spent on cigarettes and alcohol. 

Conservative Party MP Simon Clarke accused many on Twitter of “whipping up a storm” and criticised some for not “waiting for the facts before jumping in”.

The Department for Education insisted it was investigating the matter, maintaining that it is “clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed.”

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