Boris Johnson told footballer Marcus Rashford earlier this morning that scant school meals were “unacceptable” – one teacher admitted spending only £ 1 per meal, more because of “overheads”.
The Prime Minister spoke to the Manchester United footballer after horrific images of sad looking food appeared on the internet for 48 hours. It came when it was announced that coupons would be returning.
It was triggered by a Twitter account of a mother named RoadsideMum, who originally said a scanty package from Chartswell would be worth £ 30 and take ten days.
The company, which is run by Compass Group UK & Ireland, with an income of £ 24.8 billion and which until recently was chaired by a Tory donor, apologized last night and admitted it was substandard, it said but that it was only for a week of school.
And this morning, in an interview, the mother accepted that it was only intended for seven days.
Footballer Marcus Rashford announced that the Prime Minister spoke to him today
Amy Weldon, 24, shared how she got her daughter’s grocery package in a trash bag
This grocery package came from Grange Primary School Grimsby and was for two children a week
Two children who attended a school in Nottingham received it for a whole week
This student’s grocery package contained bread that was stale on the day it was delivered
The lunch company had Tory dispensers at the top
The company behind the lunch is Chartwells, Compass Group UK & Ireland’s educational catering specialist with sales of £ 24.8 billion.
Until December of that year, Tory donor Paul Walsh was the chairman of Compass, the millionaire who proves in Electoral Commission documents that the party received £ 10,000 in 2010.
Companies House documents indicated that he resigned on December 1 a little over a month ago, almost a year after announcing he would do so.
On December 8th, Chartwells announced that it had joined the Child Food Poverty Taskforce formed by Marcus Rashford MBE.
Charlie Brown, General Manager of Chartwells, said at the time: “The Marcus Rashford campaign highlights the problem of food poverty among children.
“We know the importance of nutritious food in education and that food availability is a real problem for some families. We therefore fully support the expansion of access to free school meals.
“We will now work with the task force to provide healthy meals during the school holidays for those eligible for free school meals. As the first caterer on board, I believe that our insights and our networks in schools will be valuable to really improve young life. ‘
She told the BBC, “When I unpacked the grocery package in my living room and looked at the contents, it felt very sad and very depressing and one of my kids came in and saw me lying on the floor and asked why.
“I said I would imagine because I didn’t think it looked a lot and I could see the child’s realization that this is what I was given food for a week and just the feeling of sadness .
“Where’s the rest of the food? You know, that’s supposed to be a week of food. Why is it so mean? ‘
The Prime Minister’s intervention was unveiled this morning by Rashford, who campaigned for free school meals.
He tweeted, “Just had a good conversation with the Prime Minister.
‘He has assured me that he is committed to fixing the grocery basket issue and that a full supply chain review is in progress.
“He agrees that images of obstacles shared on Twitter are not acceptable.”
It came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock bit today at food companies that were delivering scant food packages to students and said they needed to improve their game.
The 42-year-old Secretary of State for Health left little doubt about his displeasure with embarrassing photos posted on social media showing the meals.
Mr. Hancock said, “I’m glad you apologized, you clearly need to improve your game
“I want to see good, quality food.
He added to GMB, “I’m really happy that we can send food to those who get free school meals when schools are closed and I’m really happy that we can do this when schools are closed.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson repeated the anger, telling the Education Select Committee this morning that he was “absolutely disgusted” when he saw the pictures.
These items were shipped to parents in Medway, Kent, from a school to feed their children
The St. Francis de Sales Catholic Elementary School in Merseyside distributed these packages
This package was received by an angry mother who had no idea how to make meals out of it
The grocery package that caused the scandal contained only 5.22 pounds of groceries and triggered an apology
Tory donor Paul Walsh was previously the head of Compass, Chartwells’ parent company
He said, “How can a family receiving this really be expected to provide five nutritious meals as required? It’s just not acceptable. ‘
He said such offers would “not be tolerated”.
Meanwhile, Katie Barry, a principal at St. George’s Church of England Elementary School in Gainsborough, told Newscast: “Of course we should feed all of the children who are still in school – the vulnerable children and the most important working class children – so they can get a hot lunch as usual.
“But then we also have to make sure that all children who study at home and are entitled to free school meals have a grocery package.
“Schools with their own kitchens are strongly advised to offer food baskets instead of exploring the voucher route.
“I think we may know that the children are getting healthy food because we have to meet national food standards, but I also think there is an economic reason for this.
“Well, all we’re getting extra is an extra £ 3.50 per week that was announced yesterday. The money we normally get for free school meals has a lot of overheads, of course, so it’s £ 2.30 a meal, but I only have to spend about £ 1 on food because obviously we have all the wages and the electricity and the water and to have everything.
“So we really only have about £ 5 a week for groceries in our grocery parcels, then we got the extra £ 3.50 yesterday, so it’s well under £ 15 that are given to families in vouchers.
“Getting five healthy meals on a growing child who is expected to study at home is not much, and needs to be well fed to be well engaged in their learning.
“It’s pretty tight and I can understand how some parents would prefer vouchers because then they also have autonomy because of the food packages we’re trying to meet different needs, but it’s very difficult to tailor them to personal preference. “
MailOnline was given another gallery of villains with pictures of horrific boxes sent to parents from various schools and companies.
One mother, Amy Weldon, 24, shared how she got her daughter’s grocery package in a trash bag.
She told MailOnline: “Every parent in the country needs to put this back on the vouchers as some children will starve to death.
“The food companies benefit massively from it.”
“It’s outrageous what they gave my daughter, and considering it’s supposed to be a pandemic because of a virus, they shouldn’t open and touch food to repackage it
The Manchester United and England footballer (pictured in a grocery bank with his mother Melanie last year) responded to an outraged mother who popped a 10-day basket
This Woodside Primary Academy student’s grocery package should last a week
This package is supposed to hold one child a week but does not seem to contain enough nutrition
Some boxes received praise from parents. St. Dunstans School in Glastonbury received top marks for the first day, including sandwiches and wraps from Real Wrap Co.
Tiny portions of cheese and soup powder were packed in bank coin bags between vegetables
Mother Christa Lee, 39, was shocked by the grocery package that her 17-year-old picked up last week
Football player’s food goals
Footballer Rashford has been at the forefront of the free school lunch campaign since the pandemic began.
During the initial lockdown, students were given free vouchers in the closed facilities, but these were originally canceled for the summer vacation.
Rashford campaigned for them to continue and successfully convinced the government to change its mind.
He wanted the authorities to continue until Easter this year, but it was refused.
But the government then said it would set aside £ 170 million for groceries over the Christmas break.
Boris Johnson called the footballer directly to give him the news in November.
“I am absolutely disgusted with what I was given today, and I know that every parent in the country who gave this amount and quality of food would feel the same way.”
Compass Group UK & Ireland previously had Tory donor Paul Walsh as chair.
The millionaire who now runs the McLaren Group’s racing and lifestyle business
Publicly available election commission documents show he gave £ 10,000 to the party in 2010.
Companies House newspapers revealed that he officially resigned from Compass on December 1, just over a month ago, almost a year after he first announced he would be stepping down.
Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who has gone out of his way to provide free meals to children who need them, responded to pictures of the dinners which showed a huge gap in the quality and amount of food.
The government said yesterday it was “urgent” to investigate claims that the free school lunch packages only contained a few pounds of groceries.
Meanwhile, doctors at the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health were writing to the government asking if they were nutritious enough for children.
Unlike the initial lockdown, schools receive a grant from the government that they can spend to get coupons for students or use a contractor to deliver packages.
How much should the free school meals really be worth?
Free school meals are typically £ 2.34 per student per day. Another £ 3.50 per seven days has been added for blocking, which equates to £ 15.20 per week.
The government has directed schools to work with their school catering team or providers to put the grocery packages together, especially when the kitchens are open.
In contrast to the first blocking, vouchers will only be taken into account when all efforts to provide the supply boxes have been exhausted.
The government guidelines state, “You can consider other local arrangements, including vouchers for local shops and supermarkets.”
School costs for the provision of the vouchers can then be reimbursed by the government at £ 15 per week.
A school catering source told MailOnline: “The employees have never experienced anything like this. They are working on a pandemic to make the food boxes for the parents that some don’t even collect.
“For those on the school staff who were expecting 120 children from the parents of key workers and vulnerable children for free school meals, 40 came.”
This time the government has asked schools to sort packages for the students to ensure a balanced diet.
Up to that week, suppliers were working at a cost of £ 2.34 per day per student, but on Friday the government increased that by £ 3.50 per week.
The Department of Education said it would investigate claims that free school meals are not providing enough food.
On Twitter it says: “We are looking into this. We have clear guidelines and standards for grocery packages that we are expected to adhere to. Packages should be nutritious and contain a diverse range of foods. ‘
Children Minister Vicky Ford said: “I will take care of this urgently – food packages should cover all lunches and be nutritious – we have increased funding for packages and will support local vouchers – national vouchers are also being introduced as soon as possible and are working day and night . Hope your kids are ok @roadsidemum. ‘
She added: One of the reasons some schools have used grocery packages instead of vouchers is because it helps them keep in touch with families.
“Unfortunately, the risk for some children increased during the pandemic. Call @NSPCC if you are concerned about a child. ‘
Skint Dad’s Naomi Willis commented, “While some grocery packages appear to be of good quality, there is a distinct lack of consistency compared to the previous coupon scheme.
“The food parcels provided to parents in the current lockdown should be able to feed a child for a week, but what we’ve seen from members of the Skint Dad community is far from and clearly not good enough.
“This increases the pressure on parents in trouble and leaves children trapped in the middle in the lurch.
“The system needs to be checked immediately to make sure all children are being adequately fed or the previous voucher program will be reintroduced today.”
Parents said the meals were distributed to children studying from home by a private contractor.
According to government guidelines for the free school lunch program, facilities can apply for an additional £ 3.50 per student on top of what they receive.
It reads: “We strongly encourage schools to work with their school catering team or grocery suppliers to provide grocery packages to eligible students who are at home.”
It adds, “Where school kitchens are open, this should be the schools approach.”
Chartwells said this morning, “We take our responsibility to provide children with access to nutritious foods very seriously.
“We have worked hard to produce food baskets at incredibly short notice in these challenging times.
‘Our barriers follow DofE specifications and contain a variety of ingredients to help families provide meals throughout the week.
‘In most cases we have received positive feedback.
“In this case, the picture on Twitter does not meet our reservation specification and we are very interested in contacting the relevant school so that we can resolve any operational problems that may arise.”