Paltry Free School Meals Provision to Be Replaced With Supermarket Vouchers

The contents of a food bag provided by Chartwells to vulnerable families.

PARENTS claiming free school meals for their children will receive vouchers from next week after the furore prompted by shocking images of meagre food parcels provided by a private company.

The government was widely condemned on Tuesday for paying Chartwells, part of the Compass Group, to supply the food to children learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Today Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Commons education committee that a £15 supermarket voucher scheme will return on Monday to allow parents to buy a week’s worth of food for their kids’ lunches.

Shadow children’s minister Tulip Siddiq said the government’s response had “yet again been far too slow” and that the vouchers ought to be available immediately.

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked PM Boris Johnson if he would be happy for his children to eat such meals provided by the contracted firm.

Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think anybody in this house is happy with the disgraceful images that we’ve seen of the food parcels that have been offered.

“They’re an insult to the families that have received them.”

The mother who shared the viral image of the provisions described how “depressing” it felt to look at its contents.

Sarah, who does not want to be identified, is disabled and has two children. She told BBC Breakfast: “One of my children came in and saw me laying this [food] out on the floor and asked why.

“I said I was going to picture it because I didn’t think it looked like a lot and I could see my child’s realisation that this is what I’ve been given to eat for a week, and just the sense of sadness.

“This is meant to be a week’s food. Why is it so mean?”

She had estimated that the bag contained just over £5 of food: a loaf of bread, a tin of beans, eight slices of cheese, three yoghurt tubes, three apples, two bananas, two carrots, two fruitcake slices, two potatoes, a tomato and a portion of penne pasta.

Chartwells later insisted that the lunch bag came at a cost of £10.50 to the taxpayer and was meant to be for five days rather than media reports that it represented a fortnight’s food for £30.

The firm said: “We are very sorry the quantity has fallen short in this instance.”

~Lamiat Sabin
Parliamentary reporter

[via]

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