Bungling Boris Johnson was forced yesterday to admit that his government food parcels for hungry children are a “disgrace”. But Inside Croydon has discovered that state-funded packages distributed to some children in this borough have distributed with even less in them to eat than has been shown in pictures that have caused a national storm.
And one Croydon package included a loaf of bread which was already two days past its sell-by date.
The packages are supposed to be in place of the free school meals that schoolchildren might receive were the nation not in the current coronavirus lockdown. The government has commissioned private firms to deliver £30-worth of food per child.
But Johnson and the Tories have been shamed by photos posted on social media by parents angry after taking delivery of the food parcels. The Tories’ idea of what £30-worth of food amounts to appears to be a cruel joke on the “deserving poor”.
Most reasonable estimates suggest that the food contained in the packages is worth no more than a fiver.
Speaking with parents whose children attend a primary school in New Addington, this is what they got for their pack of food, to last five days:
For one child:
- Loaf bread (two days out of date)
- two oranges
- one handful of grated cheese (not dated)
- two yoghurts
- one spoonful of jam (not dated)
- Small bag of pasta
- One small jelly (not dated)
- One tin of beans
For two children:
- Same as above, minus the cheese and yoghurts, but with three apples and a small tin of tuna added.
“Had the bread been in date and there been some fruit and veg and a sauce with the pasta, this would have been far more acceptable,” said one mum, visibly upset by the shoddy treatment of her children and family.
The packages received by these families don’t even meet the standards laid down in the government’s own guidelines, according to the Department for Education “shopping list” sent to their suppliers.
Families in other parts of the borough who have been in touch with Inside Croydon say that they have been given vouchers, some of which can only be used in Tesco. That, though, at least allows the family to source fresh, nutritious food to the full £30 value, and which is not already going stale.
The Croydon food parcels did not come from Chartwells, the company at the centre of the national scandal, whose MD just happens to be besties with David Cameron and who are donors to the Conservative Party. Though the premise of providing less than £5-worth of food and the supplier pocketing a healthy £25 profit per child out of public money seems to apply here, too.
Fatima Koroma, who helps run a Croydon town centre food bank, said, “It’s not just Chartwells, other government-funded organisations give out-of-date or near-date products. The products received from individuals and donations are more and of better quality.
“We’ve been complaining, but nobody cares.”
Fortunately for the nation’s children, Marcus Rashford cares.
Rashford called the food supplied in the parcels “unacceptable”.
The England and Manchester United footballer who has been leading the campaign on providing free school meals outside term times and during lockdown received another phoned apology from the Prime Minister yesterday, as Johnson promised another U-turn to Rashford (at least the third since last summer) on the issue.
Johnson has given an undertaking to take the food deliveries out of the hands of profiteering private companies and to switch to a voucher system by next week. “We have made it clear to the company involved that this is disgraceful,” Johnson tweeted, after the latest instance of his government’s procurement policy being caught out as being centred on lining the pockets of his party’s mates and donors.
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