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Sunday, 25 February 2024
Not good enough': Marcus Rashford condemns free school meal packages
Marcus Rashford visits FareShare food distribution charity in Manchester in October.

Minister and provider vow to investigate as Starmer criticises ‘woefully inadequate’ parcels

Marcus Rashford has condemned free school meal packages being sent to some children and families learning from home as “unacceptable”.

The parcels, which have been sent to children who would normally qualify for free school meals and are now learning remotely during the national lockdown, have been criticised online by parents.

One tweet showed a package, supposedly containing £30 worth of food to last for 10 days, comprising just a loaf of bread, some cheese, a tin of beans, two carrots, two bananas, three apples, two potatoes, a bag of pasta, three Frubes, two Soreen bars and a tomato.

In response to another post, the Manchester United striker and anti-poverty campaigner tweeted: “3 days of food for 1 family … Just not good enough”. In a later tweet, he added: “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.”


In response, the Department for Education tweeted: “We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed.” The children’s minister, Vicky Ford, said she would be “urgently” look into the matter.

Chartwells, the company which she said provided the parcel meant to last for 10 days, said it would investigate. It said: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers.”Keir Starmer described the situation as “a disgrace”. The Labour leader tweeted: “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.”

Rashford forced the government into a U-turn in June over the provision of free school meals for children during the summer holidays. It followed a relentless social media campaign, which earned him an MBE last year.

He forced the government’s hand on child hunger once again in the autumn on expanding the free school meals programme through subsequent school holidays. The package included a £170m Covid winter grant scheme to support vulnerable families in England and an extension of the holiday activities and food programme to the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks this year.

The Department for Education said it was also investigating the matter following Rashford’s tweets: “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.”

But the local government minister Simon Clarke, who voted against giving vouchers to help feed children during the school holidays, citing the billions the government had put into the welfare system during the pandemic, appeared to accuse the England star of “seeking to whip a storm up on Twitter”.

The government guidelines urge schools to work with their catering teams or food provider to provide parcels to eligible pupils who are learning from home.

The guidelines state that the packages should contain food items as opposed to pre-prepared meals so parents can make healthy lunches for their children. It adds that the hampers should not rely on parents having additional ingredients at home and should cater for pupils of all diets.

source: Lucy Campbell