ENTERTAINMENT

Free School Meals: Marcus Rashford calls for another U-turn by the government


Parents can claim grocery vouchers starting next week after an outcry over scant free school lunch packages forced the government to turn around again.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced today that he will be reintroducing the £ 15 vouchers from January 18th.

He told MPs that he was "utterly disgusted" by images shared by angry parents exposing the meager contents of their food packages, which in many cases lacked the essentials of a well-rounded diet and did not reach £ 15 per child.

Boris Johnson also described the boxes as "shameful" and "an insult to the families who received them".

The Prime Minister's comments came after a phone call with campaign footballer Marcus Rashford, who advocated access to free school meals during the pandemic.

Mr Williamson addressed the Commons Education Select Committee this morning and confirmed to the government that the coupons will be rolled out next week.

Families who qualify for free school meals – around 1.3 million children are eligible – will receive an email from supplier Edenred by tomorrow explaining how they can access the account.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced today that he will be reintroducing the £ 15 vouchers from January 18th

Chartwells for breakfast in food packages

Catering company Chartwells has announced that it will include breakfast in its free school lunch deliveries in response to heavy criticism of its meager packages.

The grocery supplier at the schools under attack has apologized and promised to raise standards after parents railed against the meager lunches they sent to their children.

Boris Johnson called the boxes of 7-day supplies "shameful" and told high-ranking MPs that the company had been "dragged over the coals".

When Chartwells tried to regain confidence in angry families, it said it would include breakfast at no additional cost from Jan 25 until schools reopen.

Breakfast includes bloomer, bagel, butter, yogurt, juice, milk, oats, and fruit.

The series is the latest fiasco against the education minister, who was forced to accept a nationwide school closure at the eleventh hour earlier this month, despite enthusiastically encouraging them to open only a few hours earlier.

It was triggered by a Twitter account of a mother named Sarah – RoadsideMum on Twitter – who originally said a scanty package from Chartwell's supplier should be worth £ 30 and take ten days.

In an interview this morning, she accepted that the groceries were only intended for her child for seven days, but the company apologized anyway and admitted that the package was not up to standard.

The Prime Minister reassured senior MPs today that the company – Compass Group UK & Ireland, which until recently was chaired by a Tory donor, was run by Compass Group UK & Ireland valued at £ 24.8 billion and had been "pulled over the coal".

When asked by the Chair of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, of the Liaison Committee, he replied, “You are rightly obviously obviously outraged by the pictures we have seen.

“And the companies in question – or certainly one of the most notorious images, the company responsible for it and others – were dragged over the coal and asked to explain how this happened.

They apologized and reimbursed the schools concerned and committed not to do it again.

"I should stress that the pictures did not reflect actual government guidelines, which mean roughly double the amount of food for five days of packed lunch that you saw, if not more."

However, this has been questioned by Sir Keir Starmer, who submitted a list of the government's supposedly own standards at PMQs.

Eyebrows were raised today when it was discovered that one of the companies behind the grocery packages is also feeding gourmet groceries to children from wealthier families in private schools through a sister company.

Footballer Marcus Rashford announced that the Prime Minister spoke to him today

Footballer Marcus Rashford announced that the Prime Minister spoke to him today

A food package was distributed in a garbage bag

The food was in the bag

Amy Weldon, 24, shared how she got her daughter's grocery package in a trash bag

Katie Newton from Harrogate received a grocery package for Rylan Blakey that wasn't enough

Katie Newton from Harrogate received a grocery package for Rylan Blakey that wasn't enough

The catering company's high-end lunches for private students are revealed

One of the companies behind the grocery packages feeds children from wealthier families with what became known today as gourmet foods through a sister company.

Chartwells Independent, affiliated with Chartwells, offers private schools canapés, pâtisserie food, and gingerbread villages.

The company shared pictures of their luxury food before disputes over poorer supplies for poorer families.

Smoked mackerel, quinoa, and kale were on offer at St. Faith's in Cambridge

Smoked mackerel, quinoa, and kale were on offer at St. Faith's in Cambridge

A canapes table at Chartwells Independent's Norwich School

A canapes table at Chartwells Independent's Norwich School

Tandoori fried pollock with Goan curry made from prawns and mussels at the Chigwell School

Tandoori fried pollock with Goan curry made from prawns and mussels at the Chigwell School

Today RoadsideMum described their dismay at the opening of the free school lunch package.

She told the BBC, “When I unpacked the grocery package in my living room and looked at the contents, it felt very sad and very depressing and one of my children came in and saw me lying on the floor and asked why.

"I said I would imagine because I didn't think it looked like much, and I could see the child's realization that this is what I got to eat for a week and just the feeling of sadness." .

“Where's the rest of the food? You know, that's supposed to be a week of food. Why is it so mean? & # 39;

The Prime Minister's intervention was unveiled this morning by Rashford, who campaigned for free school meals.

He tweeted, “Just had a good conversation with the Prime Minister.

& # 39; He has assured me that he is committed to fixing the grocery basket issue and that a full supply chain review is in progress.

"He agrees that images of obstacles shared on Twitter are not acceptable."

It came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock bit today at food companies delivering scant food parcels to students and said they absolutely needed to improve their game.

He left little doubt about his displeasure with embarrassing photos posted on social media showing meals.

Mr. Hancock said, “I'm glad you apologized, you clearly need to improve your game

“I want to see good, quality food.

He added to GMB, "I'm really happy that we can send food to those who get free school meals when schools are closed, and I'm really happy that we can do this when schools are closed."

Meanwhile, Katie Barry, a principal at St. George & # 39; s Church of England Elementary School in Gainsborough, told Newscast: “Of course we should feed all of the children who are still in school – the vulnerable children and the most important working class children – so they get a hot lunch as usual.

“But then we also have to make sure that all children who study at home and are entitled to free school meals have a grocery package.

“Schools with their own kitchens are strongly advised to offer food baskets instead of exploring the voucher route.

“I think we may know that the children are getting healthy food because we have to meet national food standards, but I also think there is an economic reason for this.

“Well all we're getting extra is an extra £ 3.50 per week that was announced yesterday. The money we normally get for free school meals has a lot of overheads, of course, so it's £ 2.30 a meal, but I only have about £ 1 to spend on food because obviously we have all the wages and the electricity and the water and to have everything.

It contained two sandwiches, two potatoes, grated cheese, yogurt, an apple and an orange

It contained two sandwiches, two potatoes, grated cheese, yogurt, an apple and an orange

This grocery package came from Grange Primary School Grimsby and was for two children a week

This grocery package came from Grange Primary School Grimsby and was for two children a week

Two children who attended a school in Nottingham received it for a whole week

Two children who attended a school in Nottingham received it for a whole week

This student's grocery package contained bread that was stale on the day it was delivered

This student's grocery package contained bread that was stale on the day it was delivered

These items were shipped to parents in Medway, Kent, from a school to feed their children

These items were shipped to parents in Medway, Kent, from a school to feed their children

St. Francis de Sales Catholic Elementary School in Merseyside distributed these packages

St. Francis de Sales Catholic Elementary School in Merseyside distributed these packages

This package was received by an angry mother who had no idea how to make meals out of it

This package was received by an angry mother who had no idea how to make meals out of it

The grocery package that caused the scandal contained only 5.22 pounds of groceries and triggered an apology

The grocery package that caused the scandal contained only 5.22 pounds of groceries and triggered an apology

Tory donor Paul Walsh was previously the head of Compass, Chartwells' parent company

Tory donor Paul Walsh was previously the head of Compass, Chartwells' parent company

“So we really only have about £ 5 a week for groceries in our grocery parcels, then we got the extra £ 3.50 yesterday, and so it is well under £ 15 that are given to families in vouchers.

The lunch company had Tory dispensers at the top

The company behind the lunches is Chartwells, Compass Group UK & Ireland's educational catering specialist with sales of £ 24.8 billion.

Until December of that year, Tory's donor Paul Walsh was the chairman of Compass, the millionaire who proves in electoral commission documents that the party received £ 10,000 in 2010.

Companies House documents indicated that he resigned on December 1 a little over a month ago, almost a year after announcing he would do so.

On December 8th, Chartwells announced that it had joined the Child Food Poverty Taskforce formed by Marcus Rashford MBE.

Charlie Brown, General Manager of Chartwells, said at the time: “The Marcus Rashford campaign highlights the problem of food poverty among children.

“We know the importance of nutritious food to education and that food availability is a real problem for some families. We therefore fully support the expansion of access to free school meals.

“We will now work with the Task Force to provide healthy meals during the school holidays for those eligible for free school meals. As the first caterer on board, I believe that our insights and our networks in schools will be valuable to really improve young life. & # 39;

“Getting five healthy meals on a growing child who is expected to study at home is not much, and needs to be well fed to be well engaged in their learning.

"It's pretty tight and I can understand how some parents would prefer vouchers because they also have autonomy because the food packages we're trying to accommodate different needs, but it's very difficult to tailor them to personal preferences."

MailOnline was given another gallery of villains with pictures of horrific boxes sent to parents from various schools and companies.

One mother, Amy Weldon, 24, shared how she got her daughter's grocery package in a trash bag.

She told MailOnline: “Every parent in the country needs to put this back on the vouchers as some children will starve to death.

"The food companies benefit massively from it."

“It's outrageous what they gave my daughter, and considering it is supposed to be a pandemic because of a virus, they shouldn't open and touch food to repackage it

"I am absolutely disgusted with what I was given today, and I know that every parent in the country who gave this amount and quality of food would feel the same way."

Compass Group UK & Ireland previously had Tory donor Paul Walsh as chair.

The millionaire who now runs the McLaren Group's racing and lifestyle business

Publicly available election commission documents show he gave £ 10,000 to the party in 2010.

Companies House newspapers revealed that he officially resigned from Compass on December 1, just over a month ago, almost a year after he first announced he would be stepping down.

The Manchester United and England footballer (pictured in a grocery bank with his mother Melanie last year) responded to an outraged mother who popped a 10-day basket

The Manchester United and England footballer (pictured in a grocery bank with his mother Melanie last year) responded to an outraged mother who popped a 10-day basket

This Woodside Primary Academy student's grocery package should last a week

This Woodside Primary Academy student's grocery package should last a week

This package is supposed to hold one child a week but does not seem to contain enough nutrition

This package is supposed to hold one child a week but does not seem to contain enough nutrition

Some boxes received praise from parents. St. Dunstans School in Glastonbury received top marks for the first day, including sandwiches and wraps from Real Wrap Co.

Some boxes received praise from parents. St. Dunstans School in Glastonbury received top marks for the first day, including sandwiches and wraps from Real Wrap Co.

Tiny portions of cheese and soup powder were packed in bank coin bags between vegetables

Tiny portions of cheese and soup powder were packed in bank coin bags between vegetables

Mother Christa Lee, 39, was shocked by the grocery package her 17-year-old picked up last week

Mother Christa Lee, 39, was shocked by the grocery package her 17-year-old picked up last week

Free school meals have been around for more than 100 years

The origins of the Free School Meals (FSM) date back to the Education (Meal Provisioning) Act of 1906, when local authorities were empowered to provide food to the poorest children through local taxes.

This system lasted until World War II when nutritional standards were established in 1941. Three years later, the Education Act of 1944 followed, requiring local authorities to distribute FSM to the poorest students.

In 1986, during Margaret Thatcher's tenure, the Social Security Act required local authorities to outsource supplies to private companies.

In 2013 a new, stricter set of food standards was introduced.

The government said yesterday it was "urgent" to investigate claims that the free school lunch packages only contained a few pounds of groceries.

Meanwhile, doctors at the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health were writing to the government asking if they were nutritious enough for children.

Unlike the initial lockdown, schools receive a grant from the government that they can spend to get coupons for students or use a contractor to deliver packages.

This time the government has asked schools to sort packages for the students to ensure a balanced diet.

Up to that week, suppliers were working on a cost of £ 2.34 per day per student, but on Friday the government increased that by £ 3.50 per week.

The Department of Education said it would investigate claims that free school meals are not providing enough food.

It was posted on Twitter: & # 39; We're looking into this. We have clear guidelines and standards for grocery packages that we are expected to adhere to. Packages should be nutritious and contain a diverse range of foods. & # 39;

Children Minister Vicky Ford said: "I will take care of this urgently – food packages should cover all lunches and be nutritious – we have increased funding for packages and will support local vouchers – national vouchers are also being introduced as soon as possible and are working day and night . Hope your kids are ok @roadsidemum. & # 39;

She added: One of the reasons some schools have used grocery packages instead of vouchers is because it helps them keep in touch with families.

“Unfortunately, the risk for some children increased during the pandemic. Call @NSPCC if you are concerned about a child. & # 39;

How much should the free school meals really be worth?

Free school meals are typically £ 2.34 per student per day. An additional £ 3.50 per seven days has been added for blocking, which equates to £ 15.20 per week.

The government has directed schools to work with their school catering team or providers to put the grocery packages together, especially when the kitchens are open.

In contrast to the first blocking, vouchers will only be taken into account when all efforts to provide the supply boxes have been exhausted.

The government guidelines state, "You can consider other local arrangements, including vouchers for local shops and supermarkets."

School costs for the provision of the vouchers can then be reimbursed by the government at the rate of £ 15 per week.

A school catering source told MailOnline: “The employees have never experienced anything like this. They are working on a pandemic to make the food boxes for the parents that some don't even collect.

"For those on the school staff who were expecting 120 children from key workers' parents and vulnerable children for free school meals, 40 showed up."

Skint Dad's Naomi Willis commented, “While some grocery packages appear to be of good quality, there is a distinct lack of consistency compared to the previous coupon scheme.

“The grocery parcels provided to parents in the current lockdown should be able to feed a child for a week, but what we've seen from members of the Skint Dad community is far from and clearly not good enough.

“This increases the pressure on parents who have problems and leaves children caught in the middle in the lurch.

"The system needs to be checked immediately to ensure all children are being adequately fed or the previous voucher program will be reintroduced today."

Parents said the meals were distributed to children studying from home by a private contractor.

According to government guidelines for the free school lunch program, facilities can request an additional £ 3.50 per student on top of what they receive.

It reads: "We strongly encourage schools to work with their school catering team or grocery suppliers to provide grocery packages to eligible students who are at home."

It adds, "Where school kitchens are open, this should be the schools approach."

Chartwells said this morning, “We take our responsibility to provide children with access to nutritious foods very seriously.

“We have worked hard to produce food baskets at incredibly short notice in these challenging times.

& # 39; Our barriers follow DofE specs and contain a variety of ingredients to help families provide meals during the week.

& # 39; We have received positive feedback in most cases.

"In this case, the picture on Twitter does not meet our reservation specification and we are very keen to contact the relevant school so that we can resolve any operational problems that may arise."

So where do all those free school meals go? Charity reveals how £ 88 million "disappears" every year as catering companies make profits and school principals cut themselves off to pay staff and utility bills

By Dan Sales and Martin Robinson for MailOnline

In a perfect storm of problems preoccupying the school system, £ 88.3 million in free meals disappeared each year – while some were split off to pay employees' wages and water bills.

The government is making £ 2.34 per day for each eligible student, increased by £ 3.50 per week or an additional 50p per school day on the third lockdown.

But for the past 48 hours, the country has been shocked at the quality of the meals being offered to students, with scant obstacles containing little more than the essentials.

MailOnline can reveal the huge inequality between the funding sent and the end product due to gentle government policies, business requirements, a system to reduce the stigma of free meals, and a lack of funds in schools.

This system enables the students to buy meals in the school canteen on a smart card, which was then replaced by the controversial grocery parcels during blackouts.

Tory MPs are putting a lot of pressure on Boris Johnson to reform the system after it became known that cash intended for child nutrition is being siphoned off by private companies to increase profits. School principals also use some of taxpayers' money to pay wages and energy bills.

Influential Conservative backbencher Steve Baker told MailOnline, "I know the government is deeply moved and working hard for change on this matter – angry Conservative MPs insist."

This is what is supposed to be in a child's school lunch package during lockdown for a week

This is what is supposed to be in a child's school lunch package during lockdown for a week

Keir Starmer circulated and showed the government the instructions on what food packages should have

Keir Starmer circulated and showed the government the instructions on what food packages should have

Grant Breakdown for Some Schools: The Principal acknowledges that cash for student meals after 'overhead' such as utility bills and staff wages can only be £ 1 per day.

Grant Breakdown for Some Schools: The Principal acknowledges that cash for student meals after 'overhead' such as utility bills and staff wages can only be £ 1 per day.

The government's regulations on the universal grant for free school meals for infants include detailed terms and conditions associated with bureaucracy for education providers.

However, the fine print of the funding reveals a loophole that many have been able to exploit to cover a lack of funds elsewhere.

As long as the school fulfills its legal obligation to provide free school meals, it can use the rest for other purposes.

If they can feed students for 1 pound per capita, 1.34 pounds are free for other areas.

The guidelines state: “The grant supports schools in meeting the legal requirements to offer all 1st and 2nd grade students free school meals that meet school food standards.

“Subject to the fulfillment of this legal obligation, the schools can spend the grant for the purposes of the school. that is, for the educational benefit of students enrolled in this school or for the benefit of students enrolled in other schools.

Over 90 percent of schools receive funding for free school meals for some of their students

Over 90 percent of schools receive funding for free school meals for some of their students

Baroness Boycott and the Charity Feeding Britain say £ 88 million a year is disappearing from funding

Baroness Boycott and Charity Feeding Britain say £ 88 million a year is disappearing from funding

How much should the free school meals really be worth?

Free school meals are typically £ 2.34 per student per day. Another £ 3.50 per seven days has been added for blocking, which equates to £ 15.20 per week.

The government has directed schools to work with their school catering team or providers to put the grocery packages together, especially when the kitchens are open.

In contrast to the first blocking, vouchers will only be taken into account when all efforts to provide the supply boxes have been exhausted.

The government guidelines state, "You can consider other local arrangements, including vouchers for local shops and supermarkets."

Die Schulkosten für die Bereitstellung der Gutscheine können dann von der Regierung in Höhe von 15 GBP pro Woche erstattet werden.

Eine Schulverpflegungsquelle sagte gegenüber MailOnline: „Die Mitarbeiter haben so etwas noch nie erlebt. Sie arbeiten an einer Pandemie, um die Lebensmittelboxen für die Eltern herzustellen, die manche nicht einmal sammeln.

"Für diejenigen im Schulpersonal, die noch 120 Kinder von den wichtigsten Eltern der Arbeitnehmer und schutzbedürftigen Kindern für kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten erwarteten, tauchten 40 auf."

„Sie können es auch für kommunale Einrichtungen ausgeben, beispielsweise für Dienstleistungen, deren Bereitstellung einen gemeinnützigen Zweck zugunsten der Schüler der Schule oder ihrer Familien fördert, oder für Personen, die in der Nähe der Schule leben oder arbeiten. Die Schulen müssen im Geschäftsjahr ab dem 1. April 2020 nicht den gesamten Zuschuss ausgeben. Sie können einen Teil oder den gesamten Zuschuss vortragen. "

Die Verwendung der Mittel auf diese Weise wurde von einigen Schulen bereits in Großbritannien bestätigt.

Katie Barry, eine Schulleiterin an der Grundschule der St. George's Church of England in Gainsborough, sagte gegenüber Newscast: „Natürlich sollen wir alle Kinder ernähren, die noch in der Schule sind – die schutzbedürftigen Kinder und die wichtigsten Arbeiterkinder -, damit sie eine bekommen warmes Mittagessen wie gewohnt.

„Aber dann müssen wir auch sicherstellen, dass alle Kinder, die zu Hause lernen und Anspruch auf kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten haben, ein Lebensmittelpaket haben.

„Schulen mit eigener Küche wird dringend empfohlen, Essenskörbe anzubieten, anstatt die Gutscheinroute zu erkunden.

„Ich denke, es kann sein, dass wir wissen, dass die Kinder gesundes Essen bekommen, weil wir die nationalen Lebensmittelstandards erfüllen müssen, aber ich denke auch, dass es einen wirtschaftlichen Grund dafür gibt.

„Nun, alles, was wir extra bekommen, sind zusätzliche £ 3,50 pro Woche, die gestern angekündigt wurden. Das Geld, das wir normalerweise für kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten bekommen, hat natürlich eine Menge Gemeinkosten, also sind es 2,30 Pfund pro Mahlzeit, aber ich habe nur etwa 1 Pfund für Essen auszugeben, weil wir offensichtlich alle Löhne und den Strom und das Wasser und alles haben.

„Also unsere Lebensmittelpakete, wir haben wirklich nur ungefähr 5 Pfund pro Woche für Essen auszugeben, dann haben wir gestern die zusätzlichen 3,50 Pfund bekommen und es sind deutlich weniger als 15 Pfund, die an Familien in Gutscheinen ausgegeben werden.

"Es ist nicht viel, fünf gesunde Mahlzeiten für ein wachsendes Kind zu bekommen, von dem erwartet wird, dass es zu Hause lernt, und sie müssen gut ernährt sein, um sich gut auf ihr Lernen einlassen zu können."

Dieses Lebensmittelpaket soll ein Kind jeden Schultag zur Mittagszeit eine Woche lang ernähren

Dieses Lebensmittelpaket soll ein Kind jeden Schultag zur Mittagszeit eine Woche lang ernähren

Diese spärliche Auswahl wurde einem Kind gegeben, das eine Grundschule in Bingley, West Yorks, besuchte

Diese spärliche Auswahl wurde einem Kind gegeben, das eine Grundschule in Bingley, West Yorks, besuchte

Lebensmittelversorgungsunternehmen müssen auch überleben, indem sie mit den von ihnen erbrachten Dienstleistungen Gewinne erzielen.

Es bedeutet, dass die Verwendung eines der Hunderte von möglichen Lieferanten die ohnehin geringe Menge, die Kindern angeboten wird, wegfrisst.

Das größte schwarze Loch bei der Finanzierung kostenloser Mahlzeiten wird jedoch auf bizarre Weise durch ein System verursacht, das es älteren Kindern weniger peinlich macht, die kostenlosen Gerichte zu sich zu nehmen.

In weiterführenden Schulen wurden allen Schülern Smartcards eingeführt, um Geld aufzuladen, oder im Fall von Schülern, die kostenlose Mahlzeiten erhalten, wird der Betrag jeden Tag gutgeschrieben. Sie kaufen damit das Mittagessen in der Schule und laufen seit zehn Jahren.

Eine Eigenart im System bedeutet jedoch, dass das Tagegeld gelöscht und nicht auf den nächsten Tag übertragen wird, wenn der Betrag nicht verwendet oder vollständig ausgegeben wird.

In Sperrzeiten wurden diese freien Beträge durch die Pakete ersetzt.

Es wurde im vergangenen Jahr vom Feeding Britain-Netzwerk und Professor Greta Defeyte in einem Bericht vorgestellt.

Es hieß, 88 Millionen Pfund seien von den kostenlosen Schulmahlzeiten verschwunden.

Dem Bericht zufolge konnten weder das Bildungsministerium noch das Nationale Rechnungsprüfungsamt feststellen, wohin das Geld floss.

Baroness Boycott, Vorsitzende der Wohltätigkeitsorganisation Feeding Britain, sagte: „Die Schulen leisten insgesamt hervorragende Arbeit und sind fantastisch aufgestiegen.

„Ich denke, auch die meisten Auftragnehmer haben sehr gute Arbeit geleistet. Sie müssen sich daran erinnern, dass für die Auftragnehmer insgesamt, weil wir nur einen Schultag haben und sie eine ganze Schulzeit erwarteten, viele von ihnen tatsächlich ihr gesamtes Essen geliefert hatten, was Dinge wie Karotten und Nudeln gewesen wären.

„Sie haben es schon einmal gemacht, deshalb haben sie viele Probleme damit, aber dies ist eindeutig die wirklich schlechte Situation.

'I think the government has not on the whole done too badly but I do think there are a lot of problems going down the pipe, so to speak.

At Feeding Britain we did a big investigation into what happened to the money.

'We found that actually £88million a year was disappearing as a combination of money that didn't get rolled over.

Also the awful truth is that food is always seen as the bit of the sandwich that you can squeeze in this time of incredible cuts to councils, cuts to schools' budgets, bits of the food budget were being taken off.'

Children's Minister Vicky Ford MP said the government was dedicated to making sure pupils had good school meals.

She said: 'Government will be demanding that caterers urgently improve the quality of lunches they provide to eligible children – this will make sure every one of them receives a healthy, nutritious lunch that will give them the fuel they need to focus on learning at home.

'The photos being shared on social media last night and today are completely unacceptable and do not reflect the high standard of free school meals we expect to be sent to children.'

How many children get them? What should they include? Who compiled the parcels? Free school meals explained

Have children been receiving school meals during the pandemic?

Yes. The Government said schools in England should provide meal options for all eligible pupils, including vulnerable children and the children of key workers, regardless of whether they are being educated in the classroom or at home.

Meals should be available free of charge to all infant pupils and those who meet the benefits-related free school meals eligibility criteria.

It said schools may consider working with their school catering team or an external food provider to provide good quality lunch parcels to eligible pupils who are at home.

Around 1.3million children in England are eligible for free school meals.

What has Marcus Rashford got to do with it?

The England star became known for food poverty campaigning during the pandemic, forcing a Government U-turn on offering free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays.

The 23-year-old has drawn widespread praise for highlighting the issue, with his campaigning also resulting in the Government back-tracking to announce free meals would be provided to disadvantaged children over the Christmas holidays too.

He described the food offerings shown in pictures that emerged this week as 'just not good enough' and called for the system to be fixed 'quickly'.

What did the pictures of food on social media show?

An image posted on Twitter by a mother called Sarah showed the food she had received all laid out, and she wrote: '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. Requires mayo for pasta salad.

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

Who put the parcel together and have they explained their efforts?

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it has been made clear to Chartwells, the company that provided the pictured parcel, as well as the entire education food sector, that such behaviour 'will not be tolerated'.

Chartwells said the picture shows five days of free school lunches (not 10 days) and the charge for food, packing and distribution was £10.50 and not the £30 suggested by Sarah.

The company said they are very sorry that the quantity has 'fallen short in this instance', later adding that they will be adding breakfast into their parcels from January 25, which will be free to schools for all children eligible for meals.

Rashford, who said he had reached out to Chartwells, tweeted that they had clarified that they were not the exclusive supplier of free school meals across the UK.

What is a food parcel expected to contain?

The Government website provides a link to a webpage which sets out some general principles for putting together a food parcel.

It includes a list of food items billed as an example parcel for one child for five days.

The list includes: one loaf of bread or pack of rolls/10-inch wraps, two baking potatoes, one cucumber, three large tomatoes or one pack of cherry tomatoes, one standard tin of sweetcorn in water, five portions of fresh fruit (eg apples, satsumas, bananas) or three portions of fresh fruit and one tin fruit in juice (eg pears, peaches, fruit cocktail), two items from the following: one pack of sliced cooked meat (eg chicken, ham or vegetarian alternative) or one tin of meat or one tin of tuna in water or six eggs, 200g block of cheese or three cheese portions, one tin baked beans, one 500g pot plain low-fat yoghurt or three individual serving yoghurt pots, one litre / two pints semi-skimmed milk.

Can families receive vouchers instead?

Yes, soon. Mr Williamson said the national voucher scheme for free school meals will relaunch next week, after education leaders, campaigners and MPs called on the Government to roll out the programme urgently.

People will receive an email from supplier Edenred by January 14, advising on how to either reset their password or activate their account for the first time.

They will then receive an email confirming when they can order vouchers during the week commencing January 18.

Once families have received their voucher, they will be able to redeem them in store by either presenting a paper copy or showing it on a smartphone.

What about pupils in other parts of the UK?

The governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make their own provisions for school lunch funding.

In Scotland, local authorities and schools use different approaches depending on their individual circumstances and in response to local needs, including cash payments to families of eligible children; supermarket vouchers; home deliveries or through attendance at school.

In Wales, councils are able to make a payment to cover the provision of school meals where needed.

In Northern Ireland, a payment will be made on Friday January 15 to the parents and guardians of all children, including vulnerable children and children of key workers, who are entitled to free schools meals for the period of January 4 to January 22.

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