Firms offering poor free school meals to be named and shamed
Gavin Williamson has said the Government will ‘name and shame’ companies which supply poor free school meal parcels.
The education secretary told a committee of MPs he was ‘absolutely disgusted’ after seeing a picture of a meagre food parcel delivered to a disabled mother of two.
The picture posted on Twitter was among other photos on social media showing poor-quality and low-value parcels sent to families during lockdown.
Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford – who has been behind a drive to get free school meals to children who need them – has called for the system to be fixed ‘quickly’.
Mr Williamson told the Commons Education Select Committee on Wednesday: ‘As a dad myself, I thought “how could a family in receipt of that really be expected to deliver five nutritious meals as is required?” It’s just not acceptable.’
Mr Williamson said it had been made clear to Chartwells, the company that provided the pictured parcel, as well as the entire education food sector that such behaviour ‘will not be tolerated’.
He added: ‘We will not live with that.
‘There are clear standards that are set there that they need to deliver against and if they do not deliver against them, action will have to be taken.’
He said the Government would ‘name and shame’ companies not delivering against standards.
The mother who shared the viral image of the meagre free school meal food parcel described how depressing it felt to look at its contents, estimated to contain just over £5 of food.
Sarah, who does not want to be identified to protect her two children, is disabled and relies on free school meals.
She told BBC Breakfast: ‘As I unpacked that food parcel in my living room and looked at the contents, it felt very sad and very depressing, and one of my children came in and saw me laying this 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 the child’s realisation that this is what I’ve been given to eat for a week, and just the sense of sadness.
‘Where has the rest of the food gone? You know, this is meant to be a week’s food. Why is it so mean?’
‘However, in our efforts to provide thousands of food parcels a week at extremely short notice we are very sorry the quantity has fallen short in this instance.’
The company added that any sub-standard food parcels will be refunded, efforts will be made to find out where shortages have occurred and they will apologise to anyone affected.
It also pledged that from next Monday food hampers will reflect the additional £3.50 funding allocation communicated by the government and ensure every penny goes into the provision of the food.
The company added: ‘Chartwells is committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure the best possible provision for children in schools.’
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