Sir Keir Starmer and Marcus Rashford have blasted ‘unacceptable’ food parcels that are supposed to feed families for three days amid claims the £30 voucher replacements cost just £5.22.
The Labour leader and Manchester United footballer – who has been behind a drive to get free meals to children who need them – were responding to an outraged mother who slammed a 10-day ‘hamper’.
Sir Keir said the images were ‘a disgrace’ and ‘woefully inadequate’ on Twitter this morning.
While England star Rashford, 23, shared multiple pictures of sparse packages and said it was ‘just not good enough’.
Today the government said it was ‘urgently’ looking into claims free school meals parcels only contain a few pounds worth of food.
Pupils either get a £30 voucher or the physical food, depending on which school they go to, but there is a huge gulf between parcels around the country.
Until this week suppliers were working on costs of £2.34 a day per student, but on Friday the government increased this by £3.50 a week.
The company behind the lunch in question is Chartwells, which is the education catering specialist of £24.8billion-earning Compass Group UK & Ireland. Images of sliced partial vegetables circulating online are not from the same firm.
This Chartwells box, which is supposed to be for ten days, and instead of a £30 voucher
The Manchester United and England footballer (pictured with his mother Melanie at a food bank last year) was responding to an outraged mother who slammed a 10-day hamper she estimated cost £5.22
This food parcel was supposed to feed a child for a week, but suppliers forgot to add bread
There are huge differences in the quality of food parcels sent to pupils during the lockdown
This is part of two boxes sent every week to feed two pupils during the pandemic restrictions
These sorry-looking veg are part of one of the food parcels sent to students at closed schools
This picture posted online showed a hamper that could be bought from a company for £30
Rashford shared a post by one mother – @RoadsideMum – who posted a picture of a hamper containing bread, cheese, two carrots and a tin of baked beans.
She wrote: ‘Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest. The private company who have the #FSM contract made good profit here.’
Rashford commented: ‘Where is this being rolled out? If families are entitled to £30 worth of food, why is there delivery only equating to just over £5?!
Some boxes have been praised by parents. St Dunstans school in Glastonbury were given top marks for this one, which included sandwiches and wraps come from Real Wrap Co
Firm behind the lunch slammed by Rashford
The company behind the lunches are Chartwells, which is the education catering specialist of £24.8billion-earning Compass Group UK & Ireland.
Until December this year Tory donor Paul Walsh was the chairman of Compass, the millionaire showing on Electoral Commission documents giving the party £10,000 in 2010.
Companies House documents showed he resigned just over a month ago on December 1, nearly a year after he announced he would.
A week later on December 8, Chartwells announced it had joined the Child Food Poverty Taskforce formed by Marcus Rashford MBE.
Chartwells managing director Charlie Brown said at the time: ‘Marcus Rashford’s campaign shines a much-needed spotlight on the issue of child food poverty.
‘We know how important nutritious food is to educational attainment, and that food provision is a real struggle for some families, so we fully support widening access to free school meals.
‘We’re now going to be working with the taskforce to provide healthy meals during school holidays for those entitled to free school meals. As the first school caterer on board, I believe our insights and our networks in schools will be valuable, to make a real difference to young lives.’
‘1 child or 3, this what they are receiving? Unacceptable.’
Next to another picture of a small food parcel, he said: ‘3 days of food for 1 family… just not good enough.’
The 23-year-old continued: ‘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. This is 2021.’
He added late this morning: ‘The value uplift of the FSM Hampers has not yet come into play.
‘We have so many independent businesses who have struggled their way through 2020 – why can’t we mobilize them to support the distribution of food packages? Or am I being naïve?’
Sir Keir wrote: ‘The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a disgrace.
‘Where is the money going? This needs sorting immediately so families don’t go hungry through lockdown.’
The Department for Education said it will investigate the claims free school meals do not contain enough food.
It posted on Twitter: ‘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.’
Children’s minister Vicky Ford said: ‘I will be looking into this urgently – food parcels should cover all lunchtime meals & be nutritious – we’ve increased funding for parcels & will support local vouchers – national voucher also rolling out ASAP, working night & day on this. Hope your kids are ok @roadsidemum.’
She added: One of the reasons why some schools have used food parcels rather than vouchers is that it helps keep them in touch with families.
‘Very sadly during the pandemic there has been an increase in risk to some children. Do call @NSPCC if you are concerned about a child.’
Footballer’s food goals
Footballer Rashford has been at the forefront of the free school meals campaign since the pandemic started.
During the first lockdown pupils at the closed facilities got free vouchers but this was originally cancelled for what would have been the summer holidays.
Rashford campaigned for them to be continued and successfully convinced the government to change its mind.
He wanted the authorities to continue it until Easter this year but this was turned down.
But the Government then said it would provide £170million for food over the Christmas holidays.
Boris Johnson phoned the footballer directly to tell him the news in November.
Parents have claimed the meals were dished out to children studying from home by a private contractor.
Government guidance for the free school meals scheme says institutions can apply for an extra £3.50 per student on top of whatever they receive.
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.’
It adds: ‘Where school kitchens are open this should be the approach taken by schools.’
Chartwells said this morning: ‘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 DofE 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.’