Free school meals firm with Tory links shamed over £30 shopping basket

The parents of children who qualify for free school meals have shared pictures of the small amount of food they’ve been given to last them 10 days.

Food parcels have been brought in to replace £30 vouchers given to parents to spend in supermarkets as schools close for remote learning. But one mum valued the contents of her parcel at no more than £5.22, if bought from Asda.

She was given two jacket potatoes, a can of beans, eight single cheese slices, a loaf of bread, two carrots, three apples, two Soreen Malt Lunchbox Loaves, three Frubes, some pasta and one tomato.

The mum wrote alongside the image: ‘Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest.’

She added: ‘Public funds were charged £30. I’d have bought this for £5.22. The private company who have the free school meals contract made a good profit here.’

Footballer Marcus Rashford, who successfully lobbied the government into continuing free school meals for children through the summer and Christmas holidays, described the parcel as ‘unacceptable’.

He shared several pictures of food parcels parents had sent him, with one including two cans of baked beans, two bananas, half a pepper, several loose slices of bread, one potato, one carrot, two eggs, one onion and two ziplock bags of cheese and pasta.

Another image showed three small fruit cartons, four apples, a tin of baked beans, raisins and snacks. The mum who received the parcel noted: ‘This is my picture and what I received. How can you say this is three days worth of food for an eight-year-old? What do I do with a tin of beans, raisins and some snacks? Laughable!’

Some parcels were supplied by private catering company Chartwells, which is part of the food service giant Compass Group. The group’s chairman, Paul Walsh, was a former member of David Cameron’s business advisory group.

Responding to one of the photos, a spokesperson for Chartwells said the amount of food did not ‘reflect the specification of one of our hampers’. They added that they would investigate immediately.

In government guidance for the free school meals scheme, schools can apply for an additional £3.50 per pupil, on top of whatever support they were already receiving.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education also said they would be looking into the situation. They went on: ‘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.’

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