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Free school meals firm slammed over ‘hamper’

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Angry parents have criticised the free school meals scheme after being sent inadequate food parcels by a private firm with links to the Conservative party.

Photo source: @RoadsideMum

Parents of children who would normally qualify for free school meals have been given the option of food parcels or vouchers while schools close for remote learning.

But families who have received the food parcels have criticised both their financial and nutritional value.

Twitter user @RoadsideMum kicked off the complaints about the scheme.

She Tweeted: “#FreeSchoolMeals bag for 10 days: 2 days jacket potato with beans, 8 single cheese sandwiches, 2 days carrots, 3 days apples, 2 days soreen, 3 days frubes, Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad. Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest.”

A follow-up Tweet valued the contents of her parcel at £5.22 if bought from Asda.

Chartwells, a private company contracted to deliver the food packages, Tweeted: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers. Please can you DM us the details of the school that your child attends and we will investigate immediately.”

Chartwells joined the Child Food Poverty taskforce formed by footballer Marcus Rashford MBE last year.

The company is part of the Compass Group. Compass chairman is Paul Walsh who was part of David Cameron’s business advisory group and reported to be a Tory donor.

Last week Chartwells claimed to have “delivered 11,500 nutritious food hampers to children across the UK this Christmas”.

Rashford, who campaigned for the government to provide free school meals during the school holidays during the pandemic, Tweeted: “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?! 1 child or 3, this what they are receiving? Unacceptable.”

The Department for Education Tweeted: “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.”

Despite Chartwells suggesting the issue was with a single hamper, a worrying number of parents have taken to social media to complain about the food packages, with many Tweeting similar pictures to that posted by @RoadsideMum.

A spokesperson for Chartwells said: “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.”