Sussex mum’s photo of ‘ridiculous’ free school meal parcel

A “STRUGGLING parent” has shared a photo of a food parcel she received which was supposed to provide the equivalent of a week of school meals.

The mum from Hastings, who wants to remain anonymous, shared the image with Belles of the Ball, a charity based in Robertsbridge that supports low-income families.

The parcel contained bread, pasta, four apples, three carrots, five potatoes, two tomatoes, two tins of beans, cheese and Frubes.

She shared her concerns about feeding her two daughters in a post on Facebook.

The mother-of-two said: “I said to my sister ‘I don’t understand what meal they expect to be prepared out of these? Except maybe beans on toast?’

“Can’t really even make sandwiches unless you already have butter at home, which for some they don’t, being unable to get to the shops.

“It’s ridiculous.”

Families who qualify for the Free School Meals scheme have been sent food parcels rather than the weekly £30 supermarket voucher.

The issue received national attention after Twitter user “Roadside Mum” posted a photo showing the contents of a food parcel that she said was meant to last for 10 days and have a value of £30.

The Argus: The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has said schools would be able to offer vouchers from next week.The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has said schools would be able to offer vouchers from next week.

Chartwells, the company that provided the parcel, said it was intended to last one school week and had cost £10.50 for food, packing and distribution.

In England, schools had been given extra £3.50 per week, per child, in addition to the funding they usually receive for free school meals in term time.

The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has said schools would be able to offer vouchers rather than food parcels from next week.

The national voucher scheme will reopen on Monday, January 18 and supermarket vouchers will be provided through an online portal.

The scheme was previously used during the first lockdown.

Mr Williamson told the education select committee on Wednesday that the Department of Education had made it clear “this sort behaviour is not just right” and that it would not be “tolerated.”

He said the government would “support any school that needs to take action.”

“Roadside Mum”, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC: “As I unpacked that food parcel in my living room and looked at the contents, it felt very sad and very depressing.

“One of my children came in and saw me laying this out on the floor, and I said I was going to picture it because it didn’t look like a lot.

“I could see the child’s realisation that this is what I’ve been given to eat for a week and the sense of sadness.

“Where has the rest of the food gone? This is meant to be a week’s food. Why is it so mean?”

The post prompted others to express their concern about the quality and quantity of the food they had received in similar parcels.

Brighton and Hove MPs were among those to share the post with Green MP Caroline Lucas, and Labour politicians Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Peter Kyle, sharing their anger at the lack of provisions.

Ms Lucas said: “When I remember the struggling small businesses who offered nutritious free meals to children last October and then see what corporations contracted by the government are delivering, it makes my blood boil.”

Mr Lloyd-Moyle, MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “This food box is appalling and daylight robbery.

“Parents are meant to be given £30 of food but this must be worth £5.

“The reason food handouts rarely work is that people can usually buy better, (buy) more and (buy) food they like when they are empowered with the vouchers and money.”

Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle said: “I feel such shame – and anger – reading this thread.

“It’s this kind of thing that our generation will be judged on by those to follow.”

Marcus Rashford, who has been a prominent campaigner on the issue of free school meals, shared images of some of the parcels on his social media and said it was “not good enough.”

The Manchester United footballer tweeted to say that he had spoken to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the matter.

He wrote: “Just had a good conversation with the Prime Minister. He has assured me that he is committed to correcting the issue with the food hampers and that a full review of the whole supply chain is taking place.

“He agrees that images of hampers being shared on Twitter are unacceptable.”

Belles of the Ball are continuing to offer emotional support and refferals during the coronavirus pandemic. 

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