Pictures show free school meal hampers provided to pupils

26 March 2020, 13:14

A free school meal provided in Bristol
A free school meal provided to secondary school children in Bristol (Julia Hinchliffe/PA). Picture: PA

School staff across the country have posted images of free school meal provision to social media.

Headteachers and school staff have shared pictures of the free school meal provisions given to pupils this week.

The images, posted on social media, show the lunches provided to some of the 1.3 million disadvantaged children who are eligible for the scheme.

Schools across the UK closed on Friday to reduce the spread of coronavirus, remaining open only for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

The Department of Health announced that pupils who usually receive free school meals would be offered meals or vouchers.

Packages provided to children for the week include items such as a loaf of bread, packets of crisps, snack bars, portions of fruit, yogurts, cheese and butter or vegetable spread.

One headteacher described provisions, provided by a contractor at a cost of £11 per child each week, as “shameful”.

Peter Overton, of Easton Church of England Academy in Bristol, tweeted: “If you are a child on Free School Meals in Bristol this is what you get for the week.

“The school pays the contractor £11 for this. Check out the butter. We have 185 of these to distribute. Shameful!”

Another headteacher said pupils usually received a good variety of food in hot meals at school but what had been provided in the hamper had left her “appalled”.

Julia Hinchcliffe posted an image to Twitter of the weekly free school meal items for the 300 pupils that qualify for them at her school.

“And this is what a secondary school student has for the week. 5 processed cheese slices, 10 slices of bread, 5 biscuits and 5 pieces of fruit. Yes, for 5 days,” she tweeted.

John Spears, vice principal at Tamworth Enterprise College, said families had been asking for their free school meal items to be provided to “those more needy”.

Each child received a loaf of bread, block of cheese and butter, five items of fruit, five bags of crisps and five treats.

“It’s always a concern that some families are missing out on their entitlement, we’ve tried ringing, social media messages and home drop-offs,” he said.

“The majority of families are asking us to pass food on to those more needy and leftovers have gone to food banks and care homes.”

He said the logistics of providing meals to families was tricky as not all could come and collect them, or see messages via social media or email.

From next week, the school will be offering vouchers instead, Mr Spears said.

Bryony Baynes, headteacher at Kempsey Primary School in Worcestershire, said she decided to send vouchers instead of meals to pupils.

“I said no because it seemed to me to be a disproportionate amount of money compared to what the child would receive,” she said.

An email from catering contractors spoke to hampers being subject to stock being available, and she was concerned about the nutritional content of what was being offered.

“I also wanted to give parents the choice. It is undignifying enough to have to have ‘handouts’ from school without handing out those ridiculously overpriced hampers,” she said.

By Press Association

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