Footballer and child hunger campaigner Marcus Rashford highlighted ongoing food parcel failures, leading to yesterday’s decision to revive the food voucher scheme
After a successful campaign to get MPs to vote through a package of food support measures for vulnerable children, 23 year old Marcus Rashford recently highlighted a disparity in the food packages that were sent to vulnerable children.
Images of these parcels circulated widely on social media platforms, creating significant pressure for the UK Government.
I spoke to a mum from Harrogate and this is the food parcel she received for her son. Two sandwiches, two potatoes, two yoghurts, some cheese and two fruits.
This is a national disgrace pic.twitter.com/1RohUTqozu
— Mellissa (@mellissadzi) January 12, 2021
The Chartwell scandal
Some of the parcels were created by Chartwells, a private sector company that provides food and cleaning services. The amount allotted to each parcel was £30, but critics have pointed out that the resultant food in some parcels is worth £5. Their website states that they help those in education to “build strong bodies, sharp minds and lead long, healthy lives.”
The Guardian found that Chartwell’s was, up until recently, owned by a Conservative donor. According to Electoral Commission records, Paul Walsh has donated over £10,000 to the political party.
On Tuesday night, the company was forced to apologise for their food parcels. Attempting to clear the scandal, they offered an increased amount of food from 25 January:
Food parcel update: We will be adding free breakfast to food parcels for children eligible for free school meals. Please see below for further information. pic.twitter.com/Dhyki1ibpy
— Chartwells (@Chartwells_UK) January 13, 2021
According to a 2018 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), four million people across the UK are living in situations of moderate to severe food insecurity. Two years ago, that was the highest reported level in Europe.
Right now, economically vulnerable households have to deal with COVID-19.
Dr Suchith Anand, Chief Scientist at Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), commented: “Similar to all large-scale crises, this pandemic will have a domino effect.
“Aside from the more obvious impacts on health and finances, repercussions are expected to extend to food security and stability.”
‘Nothing left at the end of the week’
“Often, I have nothing left at the end of the week,” said a 23-year-old mother from Hull, speaking to the Human Rights Watch about UK-based child hunger. She has a 4-year-old daughter who was unable to find employment that fit with her daughter’s school schedule, and relied on a low-cost community pantry which redistributes surplus food from supermarkets.
“When you’re a single mum there are very few jobs you can do that let you drop your child to school in the morning, then go to work and be back at 2.30 to pick them up. I skip meals, so my daughter can eat.”
The Department for Education made the decision to offer £15 vouchers to vulnerable pupils instead, beginning 18 January 2021. PM Boris Johnson recognised the necessity of the move on Twitter:
I totally agree with you @MarcusRashford, these food parcels do not meet the standards we set out and we have made it clear to the company involved that this is disgraceful. The company concerned has rightly apologised and agreed to reimburse those affected. https://t.co/tVCVhUouRa
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 13, 2021