The government has been criticised for handing out “woefully inadequate” food parcels to families eligible for free school meals, with parents claiming to have been given just a handful of items to last up to 10 days.
Footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford highlighted the issue on Twitter, sharing a photo of two families who had received food parcels including half a pepper and a carrot “stub”.
The “hampers” are being sent to children who are eligible for free school meals but are unable to attend school due to the lockdown.
Food boxes are being offered in some areas instead of £30 vouchers although recipients said they would be able to buy more food with the money themselves.
One account, with the name Mizz, tweeted that she was provided with five potatoes, a carrot, a cucumber and a pepper as the only vegetables for her two children for a week.
Another user, Roadside Mum, posted: “#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.
“Public funds were charged £30. I’d have bought this for £5.22.
“The private company who have the #FSM contract made good profit here.”
Chartwells, the company which she said provided the parcel, responded to say they would investigate.
They said: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers.”
Other images showed families had been sent half a tomato or just two eggs.
Rashford tweeted another picture and wrote: “3 days of food for 1 family… Just not good enough.
”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.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer 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.“
Foodwriter Jack Monroe, who describes herself as a “former foodbank mum turned accidental activist”, described the parcels as “offensively meagre scraps”.
She said: “There seems to be a prevalent train of thought that if you’re in poverty you should be ‘grateful’ for anything you get.
“People in difficult situations are PEOPLE, no less ‘deserving’ of a good meal than anyone else.”
Vicky Ford, the children’s minister, said she would ”urgently“ look into the matter but defended the use of parcels instead of vouchers for families in need.
She said: ”One of the reasons why some schools have used food parcels rather than vouchers is that it helps keep them in touch with families.
“Very sadly during the pandemic there has been an increase in risk to some children. Do call NSPCC If you are concerned about a child.”
The Department for Education said: “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.“