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Rowing fresh free school meals as No10 insists that poor families get food around the middle of February


The meal plan will be changed for half-time

The free meals system for students will change over the course of the February semester as the government tries to balance its books by using another department's funds for food.

In the event of a move that may create some administrative problems, meals will continue for those who need them but will be paid for from a different area.

Currently, the Department of Education is responsible for providing cash for school meals during the semester hours during the coronavirus outbreak.

But when halftime comes, the so-called Covid Winter Grant Scheme, which comes from the DWP, will provide the money. It has 170 million pounds.

It goes to councils who forward it to various programs to help families in need.

This includes extending support for free school meals to those eligible if schools close during lockdown.

This Covid Winter Grant was in effect over Christmas and can send grocery packages and vouchers to those who need it.

The government was embroiled in a different set of school lunches today because of mid-term plans for children wishing to get their free supplies from another system.

Currently, the money for packages and lunches comes from an initiative by the Ministry of Education.

However, new guidelines on the free lockdown packages say they will be phased out in mid-February and families will need to use the DWP-managed Covid Winter Grant Scheme through their local council.

It has raised concerns among unions that the process may be mired in bureaucracy and that children are at risk of starving. However, meal activist Marcus Rashford had praised the initiative when it was announced last year.

After the £ 170 million grant was announced in November, he said: "I am very pleased with the steps that have been taken to tackle child food poverty in the UK."

The new criticism is believed to have baffled Ministers and No. 10 who insisted on overlapping the system with the current package to make sure no one misses anything.

Union bosses slammed the project today because they feared it would starve children.

Kevin Courtney, Joint Secretary General of the National Education Union, said, “This is an unnecessary logistical nightmare.

& # 39; The government has once again expressed its utter disregard for those hardest hit by the ongoing health pandemic.

"After a year in which the severe inequalities with which millions of children and young people are confronted were in the foreground, the ugly specter of vacation hunger is now emerging again."

It came when Priti Patel today demanded that the company be fined with £ 24.8 billion in earnings behind the food package that sparked the school lunch scandal and said they should be ashamed.

The Home Secretary described the Chartwells grocery package, which is owned by the Compass group, as a "horrific report" that was "totally unacceptable."

A government investigation into food is underway, which led to the reintroduction of the more popular coupons last night.

The grocery package was sent to Ms. Robley

Rachel Robley turned down the food that was sent to her – and an “insulting” letter informing her, among other things, of what she might need to make beans on toast

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

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

But even these fear creating more problems – after concerns about having to print them out at home to spend could be difficult for families without equipment.

The issue of student lunch while schools are closed has sparked heated debates among politicians, celebrities and families.

Ms. Patel said, “The voucher program will be reintroduced on January 18th – honestly, this system is just so, so important.

“I think the company involved in this appalling display of food parcels should be openly ashamed.

“It is totally unacceptable and it is right for the government to investigate. Personally, I think something should be done about this company, ”she added in an interview with Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield that morning.

Parents will be able to claim the grocery vouchers starting next week after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that he would reintroduce the £ 15 tokens.

However, some require that they be printed at home, which is an additional headache for poor families without access to such equipment.

Footballer Marcus Rashford, who campaigned for free school meals, said last night: “One thing I raised with the Prime Minister was the ability to correct the voucher program correctly.

“If families don't have constant access to groceries, they probably don't have access to a printer to print out the coupons at home. You have agreed to investigate. & # 39;

It came when a mother said she was "offended" after her daughter's free school lunch package included advice on making beans on toast.

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

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

Angry Rachel Robley also received instructions on how to assemble a jacket potato after receiving a skinny box of groceries to feed her six-year-old daughter Hope.

They have been sent to thousands of northeastern children who are studying at home and qualifying for free school meals due to the recent Covid-19 lockdown.

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

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 footballer Rashford, who campaigned for 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.

The series is the latest fiasco to hit 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 hours before.

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, she accepted that the groceries were only meant for seven days, but the company apologized anyway, admitting that the package was not up to standard.

The Prime Minister assured senior MPs that the company had been "dragged over the coals".

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

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

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 through a sister company with gourmet food as it became known today.

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

The company shared pictures of their luxury foods before disputes over poor supplies for poor families.

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

Smoked mackerel, quinoa, and kale were all on sale 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

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 that mean about double the amount of food for packed lunches for five days that you've seen, 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 too when it was discovered that one of the companies behind the grocery packages is also providing gourmet groceries to children from wealthier families in private schools through a sister company.

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 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 at food companies today that were delivering scant food packages 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.

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 from 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

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

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 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 filing indicated that he resigned on December 1 a little over a month ago, almost a year after he announced it.

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 in 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;

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's Church of England Primary 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.

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

“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 then they also have autonomy because of the food packages we're trying to meet different needs, but it's very difficult to tailor them to personal preference. "

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

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 quantity 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.

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 that 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. The Education Act of 1944 followed three years later, calling on 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 are only 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 the parents of key workers and vulnerable children for free school meals, 40 came."

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 food 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 in trouble and leaves children trapped 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 states, "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 provides £ 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.

Aber in den letzten 48 Stunden war das Land schockiert über die Qualität der Mahlzeiten, die den Schülern angeboten wurden, mit spärlichen Hindernissen, die kaum mehr als das Nötigste enthielten.

MailOnline kann die enorme Ungleichheit zwischen der gesendeten Finanzierung und dem Endprodukt aufzeigen, die auf sanfte staatliche Richtlinien, geschäftliche Anforderungen, ein System zur Verringerung des Stigmas der kostenlosen Mahlzeiten und einen Geldmangel in den Schulen zurückzuführen ist.

Dieses System ermöglicht es den Schülern, auf einer Smartcard Mahlzeiten in der Schulkantine zu kaufen, die dann in Sperrzeiten durch die umstrittenen Lebensmittelpakete ersetzt wurde.

Tory-Abgeordnete üben großen Druck auf Boris Johnson aus, um das System zu reformieren, da bekannt wurde, dass Bargeld, das zur Ernährung von Kindern bestimmt ist, von privaten Unternehmen abgeschöpft wird, um die Gewinne zu steigern. Schulleiter verwenden auch einen Teil des Geldes der Steuerzahler, um Löhne und Energiekosten zu bezahlen.

Der einflussreiche konservative Backbencher Steve Baker sagte gegenüber MailOnline: "Ich weiß, dass die Regierung in dieser Angelegenheit voll und ganz ergriffen ist und hart für Veränderungen arbeitet – wütende konservative Abgeordnete bestehen darauf."

Dies ist, was während des Lockdowns für eine Woche im Schulspeisungspaket eines Kindes sein soll

Dies ist, was während des Lockdowns für eine Woche im Schulspeisungspaket eines Kindes sein soll

Keir Starmer zirkulierte und zeigte der Regierung die Anleitung, welche Essenspakete haben sollten

Keir Starmer zirkulierte und zeigte der Regierung die Anleitung, welche Essenspakete haben sollten

Aufschlüsselung der Zuschüsse für einige Schulen: Der Schulleiter räumt ein, dass das Bargeld für die Mahlzeiten der Schüler nach „Gemeinkosten“ wie Stromrechnungen und Personallöhnen nur 1 GBP pro Tag betragen kann.

Aufschlüsselung der Zuschüsse für einige Schulen: Der Schulleiter räumt ein, dass das Bargeld für die Mahlzeiten der Schüler nach „Gemeinkosten“ wie Stromrechnungen und Personallöhnen nur 1 GBP pro Tag betragen kann.

Die Vorschriften der Regierung über den universellen Zuschuss für kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten für Säuglinge enthalten detaillierte Bedingungen, die mit Bürokratie für Bildungsanbieter verbunden sind.

Das Kleingedruckte der Finanzierung zeigt jedoch eine Lücke, die viele nutzen konnten, um einen Geldmangel an anderer Stelle zu decken.

Solange die Schule ihre gesetzliche Verpflichtung erfüllt, kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten anzubieten, kann sie den Rest für andere Zwecke verwenden.

Wenn sie Schüler für 1 Pfund pro Kopf ernähren können, werden 1,34 Pfund für andere Bereiche frei.

In den Leitlinien heißt es: „Der Zuschuss unterstützt die Schulen bei der Erfüllung der gesetzlichen Anforderungen, allen Schülern der 1. und 2. Klasse kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten anzubieten, die den Schulnahrungsmittelstandards entsprechen.

„Vorbehaltlich der Erfüllung dieser gesetzlichen Verpflichtung können die Schulen den Zuschuss für die Zwecke der Schule ausgeben. das heißt zum pädagogischen Nutzen von Schülern, die an dieser Schule registriert sind, oder zum Nutzen von Schülern, die an anderen Schulen registriert sind.

Über 90 Prozent der Schulen erhalten für einige ihrer Schüler Mittel für kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten

Über 90 Prozent der Schulen erhalten für einige ihrer Schüler Mittel für kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten

Baroness Boycott und die Wohltätigkeitsorganisation Feeding Britain sagen, dass 88 Millionen Pfund pro Jahr aus der Finanzierung verschwinden

Baroness Boycott und die Wohltätigkeitsorganisation Feeding Britain sagen, dass 88 Millionen Pfund pro Jahr aus der Finanzierung verschwinden

Wie viel sollten die kostenlosen Schulmahlzeiten wirklich wert sein?

Kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten betragen normalerweise 2,34 GBP pro Schüler und Tag. Weitere 3,50 GBP pro sieben Tage wurden für die Sperrung hinzugefügt, was 15,20 GBP pro Woche entspricht.

Die Regierung hat die Schulen angewiesen, mit ihrem Schulverpflegungsteam oder -versorger zusammenzuarbeiten, um die Lebensmittelpakete zusammenzustellen, insbesondere wenn die Küchen geöffnet sind.

Anders als bei der ersten Sperrung werden Gutscheine erst berücksichtigt, wenn alle Anstrengungen zur Bereitstellung der Versorgungsboxen erschöpft sind.

In den Leitlinien der Regierung heißt es: "Sie können andere lokale Vereinbarungen in Betracht ziehen, einschließlich Gutscheinen für lokale Geschäfte und Supermärkte."

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 Eltern der wichtigsten Arbeitnehmer und schutzbedürftigen Kindern für kostenlose Schulmahlzeiten erwarteten, kamen 40."

„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. they may carry forward some or all the grant.'

The use of the funding in this way has been confirmed by some schools already in the UK.

Katie Barry, a headteacher at St George's Church of England Community Primary School in Gainsborough, told Newscast: 'Obviously we're meant to feed all the children that are still in school – the vulnerable children and the key worker children – so they get a hot lunch as normal.

'But then we're obliged to also make sure all the children that are on home learning that are eligible for free school meals have a food parcel.

'Schools with their own kitchen are strongly advised to offer food hampers rather than exploring the voucher route.

'I think it may be so we know that the children are getting healthy food because we have to meet the national food standards but also I think there's an economical reason behind it.

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

'So our food parcels, really we only have about £5 a week to spend on food then we got the extra £3.50 yesterday and so it's significantly less than £15 given out to families in vouchers.

'It's not a lot to get five healthy meals for a growing child who's expected to be doing home learning and they need to be well nourished in order to be able to engage well with their learning.'

This food parcel is supposed to feed a child for a week every school day for lunchtime

This food parcel is supposed to feed a child for a week every school day for lunchtime

This sparse selection was given to a child going to a primary school in Bingley, West Yorks

This sparse selection was given to a child going to a primary school in Bingley, West Yorks

Food supply businesses also have to survive by making some profit on the services they provide.

It means using one of the hundreds of possible suppliers eats away at the already small amount offered to children.

But the largest black hole in free meal funding is bizarrely caused by a system designed to make taking the no-cost dishes less embarrassing for older children.

In secondary schools smart cards were introduced to all pupils to load up with money, or in the case of students getting free meals, have the amount credited each day. They use it to buy lunch at the school and has been running for the past ten years.

However a quirk in the system means if the amount is not used, or completely spent, the daily allowance is wiped and not carried over to the next day.

In lockdown times these free amounts have been replaced by the parcels.

It was exposed by the Feeding Britain network and Professor Greta Defeyte in a report last year.

It said it found £88 million was disappearing from free school meal cards.

The report said neither the Department for Education nor the National Audit Office were able to track down where that money went.

Baroness Boycott, chair of the Feeding Britain charity, said: 'Schools overall are doing an amazing job and have stepped up fantastically.

'I think most contractors as well have done a very good job. You have to remember that for the contractors on the whole because we only have one day of school and they were expecting a whole term, many of them had indeed delivered all their food, which would have been things like carrots and pasta.

'They've done it before, so for them they've faced a lot of problems because of this but clearly this is the really bad 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. Will need 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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