There has been an outcry in England over the paltry size of food parcels being sent to low-income households in lockdown.
One viral tweet, shared more than 28,000 times, was posted by a UK mother complaining about the shortage of food she had received to feed her child for five days.
The tweet was shared by footballer, Marcus Rashford, who has campaigned to ensure that poor households in the UK are supported during the COVID-19 health crisis.
“The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a disgrace”, tweeted the leader of the opposition labour party, Sir Keir Starmer.
The UK government has stated that they were investigating the matter immediately, and that they have “clear guidelines and standards for food parcels”, which should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food.
In a statement on Tuesday, the private company Chartwells apologised and admitted that their food parcel in the viral tweet had not met the Department for Education guidelines.
“In our efforts to provide thousands of food parcels a week at extremely short notice we are very sorry the quantity has fallen short in this instance,” a spokesperson told Euronews.
The company stated that the cost for the food, packaging and distribution was £10.50 (€11.75), and that in the majority of cases, hampers provided two weeks of food for each child.
In a further release, the supplier said they would be refunding the costs where their food parcels did not meet their “usual high standards”.
“We will be contacting every school to understand where any shortages may have occurred and we will apologise to anyone affected,” the spokesperson said.
“Chartwells is committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure the best possible provision for children in schools.”
From Monday, Chartwells stated they would also ensure that their hampers reflected additional government funding to ensure that “every penny” goes into the provision of food.
The news was greeted by the UK Minister for Children & Families, Vicky Ford, who had described the photos being shared online as “completely unacceptable”.
“The government will be demanding that all caterers meet the standards set and are delivering high quality lunches they are providing to eligible children,” Ford said.
“By doing this we will make sure every one of them receives a healthy and nutritious lunch that will give them the fuel they need to focus on learning at home.”
Campaigners including Marcus Rashford have criticised for the UK government for a lack of communication with suppliers and schools over new COVID-19 restrictions.
“Children shouldn’t be going hungry on the basis that we aren’t communicating or being transparent with plans,” Rashford tweeted earlier on Tuesday. “That is unacceptable.”
The UK has also announced that schools across the country will soon arrange local voucher schemes for parents, for which the government will reimburse up to a value of £15 (€16.79) for each student per week, dating back to January 4.
A national scheme for free school meal vouchers will also reopen from 18 January.