The UK government is investigating food parcels sent to low-income families to feed vulnerable children after campaigners – including England international footballer Marcus Rashford – criticized the provisions as “unacceptable.”
Families eligible for free school meals (FSM) have been sent food packages while schools in England are shut to most pupils as part of the country’s third national lockdown.
But recipients have been posting images online complaining about the provisions.
One post from a Twitter user called Roadside Mum on Monday, shared more than 27,000 times, detailed the items she was sent by Chartwells, one of the companies contracted by the UK government.
Roadside Mum said the parcel contained ingredients to make two jacket potatoes with beans and eight single cheese sandwiches, plus some snacks, pasta and a single tomato.
The package was meant to last 10 days, according to the post, and was issued to her instead of £30 ($40) in vouchers, which families on the scheme had received previously.
“I could do more with £30 to be honest,” wrote Roadside Mum, who said she could have bought the same amount of food for £5.22 ($7.10) at a supermarket. “The private company who have the #FSM contract made good profit here,” the post added.
Supplier Chartwells responded on Twitter, saying: “This does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers.” The company asked for further details so it could “investigate immediately.”
CNN has contacted Chartwells for further comment.
Sharing several images of food parcels that had been sent to families, Rashford tweeted: “Children deserve better than this.”
Children’s minister Vicky Ford tweeted that she “will be looking into this urgently” while the Department for Education (DfE) also said that it is “looking into this.”
“We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed,” read the DfE’s tweet. “Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food.”
Manchester United football player Rashford last year campaigned for 1.3 million children to claim free school meal vouchers in England’s summer holidays, forcing a U-turn from the UK government. He was honored by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his campaign.
On Tuesday Rashford posted a Twitter thread following a conversation with Chartwells that morning. He said there had been little communication with suppliers before England’s lockdown was announced by the government.
“Children shouldn’t be going hungry on the basis that we aren’t communicating or being transparent with plans,” said Rashford. “That is unacceptable.”
British lawmaker Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour party, also waded in.
“The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a disgrace,” tweeted Starmer on Tuesday. “Where is the money going? This needs sorting immediately so families don’t go hungry through lockdown.”
In December, humanitarian organization UNICEF announced it would help feed people in parts of the UK for the first time in its 70-year history.
The United Nations (UN) agency said a “domestic emergency” meant vulnerable children and families need assistance due to the Covid-19 crisis.
In May 2019, a UN report on poverty in the UK said the Conservative government remained in a “state of denial” about the 14 million people living on the breadline, continuing its almost decade-long austerity measures “despite the tragic social consequences.”
The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, yet one-fifth of its population lives in poverty, found the report, which predicted that 40% of children would be living in poverty in the next two-and-a-half years.