Marcus Rashford criticises ‘unacceptable’ school meals sent to UK families

Footballer joins outcry after mother shares photograph of paltry food parcel

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Marcus Rashford on Monday hit out at free school meals being provided to British children as inadequate.

The Manchester United striker took to social media after a mother shared a photograph of a food parcel she said was valued at about £5 ($6.78).

Among the items in the hamper were bread, cheese, three apples, two carrots, two potatoes, a bag of pasta and a can of baked beans. The mother said that the food had been provided instead of £30 of food vouchers and was supposed to provide lunches for a child for 10 days.

Rashford, who previously led a successful campaign for free school meals to be supplied during school holidays, said the parcel was unacceptable.

“Children deserve better than this,” he tweeted.

The footballer shared two more examples of provisions sent to families that again fell short of expectations.

“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,” he said.

Boris Johnson's spokesman said the contents of some free school meal food parcels was “completely unacceptable”.

"We’re aware of those images circulating on social media, and it is clear that the contents of those food parcels are completely unacceptable," he 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."

The Department for Education said it had clear guidelines for food parcels.

"Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food,” the department said.

Chartwells, the food service contractor that supplies the hampers, also pledged to investigate the claims.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers,” it tweeted.

In October, Rashford became an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his work combating child hunger.

The England footballer, 23, campaigned successfully for the government to allow about 1.3 million underprivileged children to claim free school meal vouchers in England’s school holidays during the pandemic.

Previously, free meals were only supplied during the school term.

The government initially blocked the bid but was forced into two U-turns after a public outcry.