Photos of the packages, which critics called meager and overpriced, circulated widely on social media, prompting the government to reinstate vouchers for parents to buy food, themselves.
Delivering food parcels to a family in Milton Keynes, Britain, last week.Credit…Andrew Boyers/Reuters
- Jan. 13, 2021, 12:31 p.m. ET
LONDON — The food package, spread out on a carpet, included a can of beans, an assortment of fruit, vegetables, snacks, and sliced bread and cheese — provisions from a government program that provides low-income students with free lunches.
But when pictures of the packages, delivered to students at home as lockdowns have shuttered schools across Britain, circulated on social media this week, they were roundly condemned by parents and anti-hunger activists like the soccer star Marcus Rashford.
The portions were meager, raising concerns about whether children were getting enough nutrition during the coronavirus pandemic, and the government had overpaid for them, the critics said.
“Public funds were charged £30,” or more than $40, said one parent, who posted a widely shared photo on Twitter of one package that she said was supposed to last 10 days. Compared with items at her local supermarket, she said, “I’d have bought this for £5.22.”
Chartwells, a contractor responsible for providing the lunch package circulated on Twitter, said on Tuesday that the photo contained enough for five days of school lunches, not 10, and that the charge for it, including distribution costs, totaled about $14.
But that was not enough to tamp down the outcry, and on Wednesday the government said it would reinstate voucher programs next week that would give parents the option to buy meals themselves.
Under the program, schools receiving funding to provide lunch for lower-income students gained incentives if they sent lunch packages to their homes. The food items,