Free school meals parcel 'worse' than one that sparked row

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Image caption,
A Hanley father shared an image of a package of food intended to provide a week's worth of lunches

A mother says her school meal parcel is even worse than a "sad" package that sparked a national row.

Others complained, after Twitter user Roadside Mum posted a photo of carrots, two potatoes, baked beans and other food, calculated to have cost about £5.

Now a mother from Stoke-on-Trent said a parcel for her son was missing staples like vegetables, a loaf and beans.

The government has said schools will be able to offer national vouchers rather than food parcels from next week.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was "absolutely disgusted" over the parcel featured on the Roadside Mum's tweet. Chartwells, the firm which supplied that parcel, has apologised.

Giving her reaction to seeing that image, the mother, from Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, said: "Well that's disgusting. I thought 'mine's even worse'.

"It more or less winds me up. It's more like an insult. It comes across as 'you get a free food parcel, so just be grateful for what you get'."

'Some days I don't eat'

The mother-of-three said her nine-year-old son's parcel for five days, with "no veg", contained "five baps, a small tin of tuna, a small block of cheese, six small juices, five apples and a pack of biscuits".

She added: "I've had some days where I've got four days left before I get paid. I don't want to lend and borrow, so I don't eat. And my kids do say to me 'mum you need to eat' and I'm like 'look I'll be fine'."

Another Hanley parent, a father, shared an image of an almost identical package to the one she described.

The parcel reflected in his photo was sent by City Catering, part of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which told the BBC the contents were based on national guidance.

Cabinet member for education and economy Janine Bridges said some schools were issuing vouchers to families and "this is what we advise is the best approach".

She said: "It gives parents and carers more choice and is more cost effective than providing boxes of food.

"Where parcels are issued, the food should contain the equivalent meal supply for lunches for a child for five days and the nutritional content meets the school food standards and guidelines set out by the Department for Education."

Asked if it thought the City Catering parcel met guidelines, that government department simply said all providers should adhere to guidelines.

Image source, Roadside Mum
Image caption,
This week Twitter user Roadside Mum posted a photo of a parcel she received

The government said it had urged schools, academy trusts and councils to take "robust action, including cancelling a contract where necessary".

It said: "Since January 4, schools have also been able to arrange vouchers for local shops and supermarkets, which can be given directly to parents. Our national voucher scheme will reopen on Monday."

Guidance approved by the Department for Education said each parcel should provide a "variety of different types of fruit and vegetables", some protein foods and some dairy and/or dairy alternatives.

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