Footballer Marcus Rashford has criticised the government for its free school meal parcels, which are being sent to low-income families during the lockdown.
With the third UK lockdown meaning schools have been forced to close doors to all pupils except vulnerable children and those of key workers, students who would usually be given a free meal at school are being sent food parcels instead.
The UK government’s meal parcels have received major backlash after a mum posted an image of her food package on social media.
The anonymous Twitter user, RoadsideMum, shared a photo of the food this morning. The parcel she received was provided as an alternative to two weekly supermarket food vouchers worth £15 each meaning it should contain £30 worth of food, but the poster estimated the contents of the parcel to be around £5.22.
The food is designed to substitute 10 free lunch meals that her children would usually receive at school.
The frustrated mother lambasted the paltry quantity, declaring, ‘I could do more with £30.’
The hamper, which is tax-payer funded and supplied by Chartwells UK, consisted of just a loaf of bread, some fruit and vegetables, three mini tube yoghurts, a bag of pasta, some cheese, one can of baked beans and two small malt loaf snacks.
The post rapidly stirred up conversation on Twitter, gaining thousands of likes and retweets.
Footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been campaigning to protect free school meals in the UK since 2019, was one of the first public figures to comment on the image.
‘If families are entitled to £30 worth of food, why is their delivery only equating to just over £5?! 1 child or 3, this what they are receiving? Unacceptable,’ he wrote in response to Roadside Mum’s post this morning.
The 23-year-old Manchester United forward went on to question how these food packages were sufficient for children being homeschooled.
‘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. This is 2021.’
Roadside Mum’s post received so much attention that Keir Starmer even addressed the issue on Twitter.
The Labour Party leader called the ‘woefully inadequate free school meal parcels’ a ‘disgrace’ and demanded to know how taxpayers’ money was being spent.
‘This needs sorting immediately so families don’t go hungry through lockdown.’
Downing Street has since spoken out in response of the backlash, releasing a statement following the circulation of the food parcel photos.
“We’re aware of those images circulating on social media, and it is clear that the contents of those food parcels are completely unacceptable,” Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said.
“The Department for Education is looking into this urgently and the minister for children, Vicky Ford, is speaking to the company responsible and they will be making it clear that boxes like this should not be given to families.”