The education secretary has said he was “disgusted” by a picture of a meagre free school meals parcel – as Marcus Rashford says the prime minister has told him he is “committed to correcting the issue”.
The image by Twitter user @RoadsideMum has sparked debate about the quality and quantity of food given to children.
Made up of items including two bananas, a tomato, a tin of beans and a bag of pasta, it was intended to provide five days of lunches but has been widely criticised as inadequate.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “When I saw that picture I was absolutely disgusted.
“As a father myself, I just thought how a family in receipt of that can really be expected to deliver five nutritious meals.”
Speaking at a select committee hearing on Wednesday, he also promised to “name and shame” providers of the food parcels who deliver sub-standard meals.
Families eligible for free school meals have the option of food parcels or vouchers while schools are shut due to a third national lockdown in England.
Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, who has campaigned to improve the provision of free school meals, also tweeted about the issue, saying “children deserve better than this”.
He posted on Wednesday morning to say he’d had a “good conversation” with Boris Johnson and that the prime minister also thought the pictures online were “unacceptable”.
Rashford said: “He has assured me that he is committed to correcting the issue with the food hampers and that a full review of the supply chain is taking place.
“He agrees that images of hampers being shared on Twitter are unacceptable.”
Just had a good conversation with the Prime Minister. He has assured me that he is committed to correcting the issue with the food hampers and that a full review of the supply chain is taking place. He agrees that images of hampers being shared on Twitter are unacceptable.
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 13, 2021
@Roadsidemum, who wants to stay anonymous, priced up the parcel as costing little over £5 at a supermarket despite the fact that the scheme is meant to provide £30-worth of food.
The company that provided the package, Chartwells, said it was “very sorry” the “quantity has fallen short in this instance”, but clarified it had only charged £10.50 to supply and deliver the food in question.
Children’s minister Vicky Ford called the pictures “completely unacceptable” and said she had met the company’s boss who had now “taken immediate action to stop further deliveries of poor-quality parcels”.
“They will ensure schools affected are compensated and they will provide additional food to the eligible child in line with our increased funding,” said Ms Ford.
The original Twitter post has been shared more 30,000 times and has prompted others to post other pitiful-looking food packages, including one that featured a small stub of carrot.