The caterer provides food to independent schools (Image: Instagram)

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A catering firm accused of providing "woeful" free school meal packages is linked to a sister company which provides lavish meals for private schools.

Chartwells has today apologised after a picture of a food parcel was widely shared on social media, prompting Labour leader Keir Starmer to brand it a "disgrace".

It has now been revealed that the company is connected to another firm that produces luxurious hampers for elite schools.

Chartwell Independent, which is part of the same parent company – Compass UK – as Chartwells, provides meals from the "very best fresh seasonal ingredients prepared with care and innovation, to suit the occasion."

It stands in stark contrast to the taxpayer-funded packages which have been heavily criticised today, with the schools minister Vicky Ford today launching a government investigation.

What do you think of your family's Free School Meals box? Email [email protected]

(Image: xxxxxxxx/Twitter)

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Some of the delicious looking meals on offer from Chartwell Independent include a selection of canapés for private Norwich School.

The company also supplied dishes including coconut, lemongrass and banana leaf wrapped salmon for New Hall school and bouillabaisse at Chigwell School.

A photo from the company's Instagram page shows boxes of patisseries laid out for hungry Chigwell pupils.

Another post shows a ginger bread village made for Haileybury boarding school in Hertford.

Chartwell Independent's parent group is chaired by Paul Walsh, who is a former member of David Cameron’s business advisory group.

A spokesperson for Chartwells said: "We have had time to investigate the picture circulated on Twitter.

"For clarity this shows five days of free school lunches (not 10 days) and the charge for food, packing and distribution was actually £10.50 and not £30 as suggested.

"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."

They added: "We would like to thank Marcus Rashford and the Permanent Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, Vicky Ford, for their collaboration as we navigate these difficult times."

Posting the image on Twitter, user Roadside Mum said: "2 days jacket potato with beans, 8 single cheese sandwiches, 2 days carrots, 3 days apples, 2 days soreen, 3 days frubes.

"Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad.

"Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest."

When it announced it would be involved in the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, Chartwell's managing director Charles Brown said: “Marcus Rashford’s campaign shines a much-needed spotlight on the issue of child food poverty."

England striker Rashford has condemned the food parcels some kids are receiving, saying they are "just not good enough".

Labour leader Keir Starmer has also criticised the packages.

He said: "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."

When asked about the photo of the food circulating online Chartwels said it would "investigate immediately".

The firm added: "This does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers."

Compass UK has been asked about the food Chartwell Independent provides to private schools.