A VOLUNTEER group in Chipping Sodbury has launched a campaign to help vulnerable families after food parcels sent in lieu of free school meals were found to be ‘inadequate.’
Some of the food packages sent out for children, who would be eligible for free school meals but are at home during lockdown, have been criticised by parents.
The parcels are meant to last between five and 10 days but one mum said her son ‘wouldn’t be fed this rubbish at school, so why is she expected to give it to him at home?’ Another parent said her concern was with the discrepancy between packages, and that she didn’t know whether she should keep food back in case her next parcel is inadequate.
So volunteer group Family Food 4 Free (FF4F) has stepped in to help, giving out 300 food parcels and 100 packed lunches a day in South Gloucestershire.
Many of the parents who have spoken of their disappointment over the food parcels did not want to identify themselves nor their children, nor the school they attend, for fear of their complaint resulting in them losing out on the support.
A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council pointed out that many schools in the area have their own contracts with various catering companies and that, if parents wouldn’t say which school their child attends, the authority couldn’t identify who was responsible for their food parcel.
Aimee Waters, founder at FF4F, has launched the #FF4FMakeADifference to improve the quality of the food parcels.
She said: “I’ve seen some of these boxes that are apparently filled with £30 worth of food – these boxes wouldn’t last two days, let alone five. Lots of these boxes are not meeting the calorific or nutritional needs of a growing child.
“We are seeing a huge daily increase of people needing to use us at FF4F. On average we are helping and providing a meal to 300 people a day, including 100 children packs a day- we need to make sure these families are properly fed.
“It shouldn’t be down to the general public to make a difference. The local councils and MPs should be supporting this and helping these families who are in dire need.”
One mother who has to rely on FF4F, but wished to remain anonymous, received a school meals parcel for her nine-year-old son which contained with a small amount of ham, a loaf of bread, one yoghurt, a tin of baked beans, some cheese, one potato, one pint of milk, six eggs, a tin of tuna, two Weetabix, half a cucumber and an apple.
She said: “How am I supposed to make five lunches from this? There is a single piece of fruit for a whole week for my son. He wouldn’t be fed this rubbish at school, so why have I been sent it to feed him at home?”
Another mum whose child attends a school in Chipping Sodbury said their food box had only enough fresh fruit and vegetables to give her child two of the recommended five a day.
Aimee added: “We don’t receive any funding and are not eligible for any because we can’t register as a charity until we raise and hold £5,000 in a bank account – how can we do that when all the money we are kindly donated by the public we use to fill our community shop with food, but they are being referred to us for support with food.”
Thornbury and Yate MP Luke Hall said: “Some of the food parcels we have seen online 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.
“I would urge anybody with questions or enquiries regarding the content of parcels in South Gloucestershire to get in touch with me or with South Gloucestershire Council as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for South Gloucestershire council “We are providing nutritious food parcels every week to all schools that have their catering provided by Integra. These are for children who receive free school meals and are not currently attending school. Some schools will have different meal providers and therefore their offers may be different.
“However, we have shared our expectations as a council on what makes for an effective food parcel with local school leaders through our regular briefings. We have had input from our Public Health team on the Integra parcels and each contains a balanced selection of food and is intended to provide ingredients for five lunches.”