Patel: Action should be taken against company behind ‘appalling’ food parcels

Action should be taken against the food provider which compiled “appalling” free school meal parcels for families, the Home Secretary has said.

Priti Patel said Chartwells should be “ashamed of themselves” after images showing the poor-quality hampers were widely shared on social media.

She told ITV’s This Morning that the parcels were “appalling in every way”.

“I do think the company that were involved with that appalling display of food parcels should be ashamed of themselves quite frankly.

“It was thoroughly unacceptable and it is right that the Government are investigating them. I personally think some action should be taken against that company.”

A national voucher scheme for free school meals will relaunch on Monday, she said.

Ms Patel is the latest Government minister to condemn the parcels after Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that they were an “insult” to the families who had received them.

His comments came after Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford said he had spoken to the Prime Minister about issues with the parcels and he was told that “a full review of the supply chain” was underway.

Mr Johnson said the companies which supplied the much-criticised free school meal offerings to families had been “hauled over the coals” and had been asked to explain how the events took place.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said companies which supply poor food parcels will be named and shamed if they fail to deliver against food standards – and he has urged schools to cancel contracts “where necessary”.

Mr Williamson and children’s minister Vicky Ford met several food caterers and suppliers on Wednesday to discuss free school meals provisions.

Food provider Chartwells has since announced it will add breakfast into its parcels for children eligible for free school meals after it acknowledged that there were local issues following school closures.

Meanwhile a parent of a child eligible for free school meals, at Pimlico Academy in London, was left dissatisfied after they were sent bread mix to bake their own bread as part of their food parcel.

A statement from Future Academies, the academy chain which runs the school, said: “Since the lockdown began, we have been in regular communication with Impact Food Group who provide the food parcels to our Pimlico schools to raise our concerns about the food parcels’ content.

“We stand together with our parents and families in demanding better for our most vulnerable children who are self-isolating at home during this challenging time.”

The academy chain has said its own voucher scheme for families will start next week.

John Hamill, chief executive of Impact Food Group, said: “We are very sorry if parents feel that this is unsuitable and we apologise unreservedly if we caused any distress, it was certainly not our intention.”

He added that bread mix was included in food parcels “to help parents create an interactive cooking experience with their children and to help with some food education at home”.