Families given “degrading” food parcels as part of the Government’s free school meals programme are being treated “like dirt”, according to one mother.
Kerry Wilks, from Redcar in north-east England, received a package at her youngest child’s school containing a loaf of bread, three yoghurts, a tin of beans, tuna, two potatoes, four pieces of fruit and two slices of cheese.
“Even the teaching staff were quite embarrassed by giving them out,” Ms Wilks, 38, told the PA news agency.
— Kerry Wilks (@middlesbro82) January 12, 2021
“I think what’s really bugged me about it is the fact that there’s two pieces of square cheese wrapped in cling film – I just find it so degrading.”
Ms Wilks is a widow and acts as a carer for one of her three children, who has autism, so has no income aside from universal credit.
She received vouchers last summer – which she said she also found “degrading” because of the attitudes of some people online and in shops, but preferred that to the packages.
She said: “Going into the school and receiving that – ‘oh, your food hamper’s here’ – well the perception of a hamper that I’ve got is not what I’ve received.”
She added that she would not be collecting the packages for her two older children, who attend a different school, saying: “It’ll cost me more in bus fares to get it than what the food’s worth.”
According to her local MP, Conservative Jacob Young, catering companies had been provided with £11.50 per student to produce the packages.
#FreeSchoolMeals bag for 10 days:
2 days jacket potato with beans8 single cheese sandwiches
2 days carrots3 days apples2 days soreen3 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
Ms Wilks, who said her package had come from Caterlink, added: “If that’s £11.50 worth of food, wow.”
Asked how she felt the Government was treating people who receive the parcels, she said: “It’s like they’ve scraped them off their shoe. They’re treating them like dirt. It absolutely horrific.”
Ms Wilks was one of a number of parents posting images of food packages they had received over the last two days, which were later described by a spokesman for the Prime Minister as “completely unacceptable”.
One such image, which showed a £30 package and was supplied by a different company, was estimated to contain just more than £5 worth of food.
The PM’s spokesman added: “The Department for Education is looking into this urgently and the minister for children, Vicky Ford, is speaking to the company responsible and they will be making it clear that boxes like this should not be given to families.”
Caterlink managing director Neil Fuller said: “All children require nutritious food to support their learning, whilst at school, or at home.
“We have listened to feedback from parents and pupils, and in some cases it is clear our parcels have fallen short.
“We have immediately reviewed our current food parcels, enhancing the contents. These enhancements have been funded by our organisation’s charitable foundation, WSH Foundation.
“The enhanced parcels will be prepared by a site-based catering team and will be available for distribution in the coming days.”