The stark contrast between free school meals in England and Wales
The Department of Education are said to be investigating
Free school meals are the remit of the Department of Education for England, but this is a devolved matter in Wales.
Images circulating on social media depict a stark difference in free school meals between the two nations.
Under the free school meals scheme, which was extended by the government last year after a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, families in England are entitled to vouchers worth £30 to purchase food.
At least, this was the intention.
However, food packages have replaced the £30 vouchers previously given to families. Many believe the value of the food included in these packages (and subsequently given to children at state schools) does not amount to £30.
Twitter user @RoadsideMum shared images of the free school meal package she received - with which she is expected to feed her family for 10 days. She estimated the total cost to amount to £5.22.
#FreeSchoolMeals bag for 10 days:
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. pic.twitter.com/87LGUTHXEu
— Roadside Mum (@RoadsideMum) January 11, 2021
Images of similarly-sized packages were distributed by Rashford's social media channels.
3 days of food for 1 family...
Just not good enough. pic.twitter.com/Y7FJEFFAma
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) January 11, 2021
The company responsible, Chartwells UK, have launched an investigation, as have the Department of Education. The company said the hampers depicted on social media do not reflect their actual specifications.
We are looking into this.
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.https://t.co/ZBdJZqxdfK https://t.co/9sfxHPX9RJ
— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) January 11, 2021
In an interview with the BBC, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the food parcel was "just not acceptable".
"When I saw that picture I was absolutely disgusted"
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says photo showing contents of a free school meals food parcel was "just not acceptable" and says Chartwells, the firm which supplied it, has apologisedhttps://t.co/Wt10XxTRqo pic.twitter.com/7H2gWia9mV
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) January 13, 2021
These paltry food offerings are a stark contrast to free school meals provided by the Welsh Government.
Anfaddeuol • Compare and contrast pic.twitter.com/x7eJ9huPGn
— YesCymru 🏴 (@YesCymru) January 12, 2021
Despite facing intense scrutiny since the onset of Covid-19, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, has pledged to extend free school meal provisions to 2022.
REMINDER: The Welsh Labour Government has extended free school meals through to 2022.
First Minister @MarkDrakeford has always said these meals aren't just about the food – it's about telling children in Wales that they matter.#StandingUpForWales pic.twitter.com/xaCSmZ9sED
— Welsh Labour (@WelshLabour) January 12, 2021
Earlier today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared on Good Morning Britain, where he was challenged by host Piers Morgan as to why he personally voted against extending free school meals.
When first asked to explain the Chartwells UK fiasco, Hancock said: "I am glad that they have apologised, they have clearly got to up their game.
"I want to see good high-quality food, I am really glad that we are able to send out food for those who receive free school meals when schools are in and I am really glad that we are able to do that when schools are out."
Morgan then asked Hancock: "If you are that glad, can I just ask you a difficult question: why did you vote against it?"
"Well I am really glad we were able to put it into place," Hancock replied.