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Firm shamed over 'inadequate' free school meals parcels defends itself

The company has promised to launch an investigation.
Compass Group (owner of Chartwells UK) logo and an 'inadequate' free school meals package reportedly supplied by Chartwells UK
Chartwells have responded after coming under fire on social media (Picture: @RoadsideMum)

A catering firm has responded to claims it has let down impoverished families and the taxpayer by supplying disproportionately small free school meals packages.

Chartwells UK has come under fire after images of scant food parcels, which were supposed to be worth £30 and last for 10 days, began circulating on social media.

A mother who shared the first picture says it would have cost her around £5 if she shopped at Asda, raising questions over whether taxpayers and parents are getting value for money from the government contract.

The firm said the hamper didn’t meet its specifications and that it would investigate, while the Government has promised a probe of its own.



Chartwells told it is waiting to hear back from the parent who shared the original image to confirm that they were the supplier.

It suspected that some pictures circulating online may not have been of their parcels.

This Chartwells box, which is supposed to be for ten days, and instead of a ?30 voucher - The company behind the lunches are Chartwells, which is the education catering specialist / re: Marcus Rashford slams inadequate free school meals parcel given to families to last them 10 days Rashford shared post by one mother - @RoadsideMum - who posted a picture of a hamper containing bread, cheese, two carrots and a tin of baked beans
A frustrated mother shared her parcel, which is supposed to be worth £30 and last 10 days (Picture: @RoadsideMum)

A spokesperson said: ‘We take our responsibility to provide children with access to nutritious food very seriously. We have worked hard to produce food hampers at incredibly short notice during these challenging times.

‘Our hampers follow the DofE specifications and contain a variety of ingredients to support families in providing meals throughout the week. In the majority of instances, we have received positive feedback.

‘In this instance, the image on Twitter falls short of our hamper specification and we are keen to investigate with the relevant school so we can address any operational issues that may have arisen.’

Manchestrer United striker Marcus Rashford, who successfully lobbied the Government to continue free school meals during the summer and winter holidays, described the latest images of parcels as ‘unacceptable’ and said the nation’s children ‘deserve better’.

Parents suggest this is what £30 could potentially get you in a supermarket (Picture: @Munchbunch87)

He said he had spoken with Chartwells, who are due to hold talks with the Department for Education today.

He stressed Chartwells was not the exclusive provider of the food parcels and did not provide the hamper that included half a pepper.

The company told him their packages include supporting recipes and that once the food is supplied to school networks, schools have autonomy over how they are distributed.

Chartwells is part of the food service giant Compass Group. The group’s chairman, Paul Walsh, was a former member of David Cameron’s business advisory group.

One of the free school meals parcels sent to a family
The Government and Chartwells have both promised to launch investigations into the matter
More: School

Its sister company, Chartwells Independent, offers luxurious gourmet food for private schools, including a selection of canapés for Norwich School, coconut, lemongrass and banana leaf wrapped salmon for New Hall school and bouiliabasse at Chigwell School.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed. Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food.’

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said she would ‘urgently’ look into the matter. In government guidance for the free school meals scheme, schools can apply for an additional £3.50 per pupil, on top of whatever support they were already receiving.



Defending the choice to provide packages instead of vouchers, she said: ‘One of the reasons why some schools have used food parcels rather than vouchers is that it helps keep them in touch with families.

‘Very sadly during the pandemic there has been an increase in risk to some children. Do call NSPCC If you are concerned about a child.’

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