A furious mum has slammed the free school meals scheme after she says she was sent just a few pounds worth of food to feed her children for 10 days.
Parents of children who would normally qualify for free school meals have been given the option of food parcels or vouchers as schools close for remote learning.
Going by the Twitter handle @RoadsideMum, the unnamed woman shared a photo of a delivery which she estimated cost £5.22, rather than the £30 vouchers she is entitled to.
By midnight on Tuesday (January 11), the image had been shared more than 15,000 times on Twitter and footballer Marcus Rashford and Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner had weighed in on the situation.
The photo shows items including bread, cheese, two carrots and a tin of baked beans, with the mum writing: “Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest.”
She added: “The private company who have the #FSM contract made good profit here.”
Other people shared similar photos of limited food supplies delivered to them regardless of the number of children they have.
Rashford, who successfully campaigned for the Government to extend its free school meals scheme at the end of last year, said it was “unacceptable”.
Sharing Roadside Mum’s tweet, he added: “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.”
In another tweet he later added: “Children deserve better than this.”
And Rashford also shared another photo of a sparse hamper which he said was “3 days of food for 1 family…Just not good enough”.
“Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home,” the 23-year-old added. “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. This is 2021”.
The Department for Education has said it is investigating images on social media purporting to show ‘free school meals’ sent to families during lockdown.
In a statement on Twitter it said: “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.”
It is alleged the food was sent out by a private contractor hired to distribute supplies to pupils being home-schooled during lockdown.
In the Government’s guidance for the scheme, it states Free School Meals allows schools to apply for an additional £3.50 per pupil, on top of whatever support they were already receiving.
It continues: “We strongly encourage schools to work with their school catering team or food provider to provide food parcels to eligible free school meal pupils who are at home. Where school kitchens are open this should be the approach taken by schools.”
In response to Roadside Mum’s tweet, Chartwells – part of the London Stock Exchange-listed food service giant Compass Group, said it would “investigate immediately”.
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers,” it said, before asking for details of the school involved.
The company had previously been criticised by a Bristol School’s headteacher for charging £11-a-week for the food per pupil, reports BristolLive.
Rashford has become a high-profile campaigner against child hunger after revealing how his family relied on free school meals growing up.
After a million people signed a petition led by the striker, the UK government announced a £170m winter grant to help support families in need from early December.
Support is being provided by local authorities in the form of vouchers, direct payments or delivery of pre-prepared meals or lunch bags.