The Government has promised to investigate after images shared online showed "woefully inadequate" free school meal parcels sent to families.
Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said she would be "urgently" look into the matter after one mother posted an image of a £30 parcel which was estimated to contain just over £5 worth of food.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the food parcels were a "disgrace" and "woefully inadequate" and has asked for clarity on where the money is being spent.
The Twitter user – Roadside Mum – said this parcel was delivered to her to feed her child for 10 days.
Priced via Asda:
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.
— Roadside Mum 🐯 (@RoadsideMum) January 11, 2021
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."
Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford tweeted another picture and wrote: "Three days of food for one 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."
And another one…😔 pic.twitter.com/hCCFCxC5HL
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 11, 2021
He later shared some "key points" from his conversation with education food service provider Chartwells.
In a Twitter thread, the England international said he had been told free school meals hampers are "distributed to provide 10 lunch meals per child across two weeks", adding "Is one meal a day from Mon-Fri sufficient for children most vulnerable?"
Rashford went on to ask why independent businesses which "struggled their way through 2020" cannot be mobilised to support distribution of food packages and said it was "unacceptable" that children should go hungry due to poor communication and a lack of transparency.
He also said that Chartwells had clarified that "Chartwells supply FSM when schools are operational. Chartwells is not the exclusive supplier of FSM across the UK. Chartwells have asked to make it clear that the picture in circulation that features the pepper is not one of their hampers".
He concluded by tweeting: "I have a game today so have to log off but I wanted to update you on the conversation and I look forward to hearing the outcome of the DfE meeting today.
"Something is going wrong and we need to fix it, quickly!"
The Department for Education wrote on Twitter: "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."
She estimated the cost of the food in the package at £5.22 based on prices at Asda.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the situation as "a disgrace".
He 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."
After announcing her plans to investigate, Ms Ford also defended the use of parcels instead of vouchers for families in need.
She tweeted: "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."