Parents receiving food parcels in part of Derby have been left shocked by their contents and claim they go against all the rules of food hygiene and safety.
Food parcels have been sent to the families of pupils, who would normally be eligible for free school meals, while schools are closed during the coronavirus lockdown.
In the previous lockdown, the Government ordered food vouchers to be distributed.
Derbyshire Live has seen the contents of one food parcel, which is intended to last for 10 lunches. This is instead of £15 weekly vouchers, which were sent to children eligible for free school meals such as those issued over the Christmas holiday.
The parcel appears to come to little more between £6 to £8 if the items were purchased at Aldi or Asda, and even then some parents say the promised eggs and yogurts were missing.
It is accompanied by a meals’ suggestion plan for the ten days, which one local councillor said could be interpreted as suggesting keeping opened and fresh food throughout the two weeks to the final day.
One Derby school says it will ask the supplier for an explanation if the quality falls short of expectation.
Sinfin councillor Joanna West says she is “horrified” that so many people have approached her about “their children’s schools and the food provision they have received”.
She said: “I was appalled to see a meal plan that I feel suggests, for example, that a tin of beans be opened on day one, used again on day three and then used again on day nine (which is actually day 11 given the weekend in between).
“That goes against all food hygiene and safety. A suggested meal plan that could cause food poisoning is never appropriate.
“Some schools are distributing £15 vouchers per child, others are distributing food ‘hampers’, and some haven’t been in touch with parents at all so some children have received nothing.”
This is the list of ingredients in the food parcel
Schools must provide food for pupils attending in person if they normally qualify for free school meals because they are claiming universal credit. If they are at home, they can receive food parcels or vouchers.
In England, schools have been “strongly encouraged” to send food parcels rather than vouchers. Schools using this option get an extra £3.50 per week, per child, on top of the funding they usually receive for free school meals in term time.
If schools can’t offer food parcels they can consider “other local arrangements”, including vouchers for local shops and supermarkets.
Schools can claim back up to £15 per pupil, per week, for these vouchers, on top of their usual free school meals funding.
These are the meal suggestions for the food supplied for 10 lunches
One of the Sinfin parents, with a child at Redwood Primary School, said: “I was very shocked that it’s meant to last two weeks. The bread we got said it had been frozen, so we couldn’t even freeze it to make it last longer. It has a date of November 2021 on it so it’s catering bread but it goes off really quickly after it has been defrosted.”
The quantities of some items are too small to come in their original packaging and appear to have been weighed out and put in plastic food bags but with no instructions as to contents, food values, or how to use, cook or store them.
Other parents have told Ms West that they have not heard from their children’s schools at all about the meals and others have said they have been given a £10 voucher.
Redwood executive head teacher Jane Calladine said: “An external provider delivers Redwood’s meal service.
“Given the very short notice in the change of provision, and the high number of meals to be provided, in the first week of lockdown, Redwood provided sandwich packs to disadvantaged families.
“This week we tried hampers, to support families until the voucher system is activated. We did this because distribution is a staffing challenge when you are trying to deliver large numbers out to families daily.
Much of the food is delivered in food bags with no instructions about storage or usage
“We made it clear to the provider that the quality of the hampers needed to be high, and as yet have received no complaints into school. In parallel we are providing all relevant information to the voucher system, so vouchers can be distributed as soon as they are available.
“As Derbyshire Live has raised the question, we are looking into the value of what was in the hampers, and will challenge the provider if it falls short of the expected value.”
These were the items in the food parcel:
* 120g cheese
* 140g tuna
* 6 eggs
* 415g tin baked beans
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* 1 x loaf of medium sliced bread
* 180g dried pasta
* 2 x jacket potatoes
* 400g tin chopped tomatoes
* 200g carrots
* 200g cucumber
* 200g tomatoes
* 1 x banana
* 1 x apple
* 1 x satsuma
* 4 x yoghurts
* 225g sponge mix
* 150g custard powder
The Government has been inundated with complaints from across the country about the standard of food parcels and now said schools should give vouchers instead.
The national vouchers scheme will reopen on Monday, January 18 and provide supermarket vouchers through an online portal.
The guidelines for the contents of food parcels are as follow:
- Parcels should contain food items rather than pre-prepared meals due to food safety considerations
- Minimise the fridge and freezer space that schools and families will need to store foods
- Contain items which parents can use to prepare healthy lunches for their child/children across the week
- Not rely on parents having additional ingredients at home to prepare meals
- Not contain items restricted under the school food standards
- Cater for pupils who require special diets, for example, allergies, vegetarians or religious diets – schools should ensure there are systems in place to avoid cross-contamination
- Contain appropriate packaging sizes for household use, rather than wholesale sizes
As there more than 10,000 children eligible for free schools meals in the city, Derbyshire Live has approached Derby City Council about the situation regarding food parcels.