Outcry in UK over distribution of ‘insulting’ food packages

The small amount of food, supposed to feed underprivileged schoolchildren during confinement, angered many parents. Led by footballer Marcus Rashford, used to struggles against food insecurity, the sling made the government fold. Packages can soon be replaced with 15 pounds sterling vouchers.

“Two potatoes, a box of baked beans, eight slices of cheese, two carrots, three apples, two bananas, a small bag of pasta, a tomato, three Frubes [une marque de yaourts en tube], two Soreens [une marque de pain de malt] and white bread. ” Behind this list, drawn up by the New Statesman from a photo posted on the social network Twitter, a wave of indignation, across the Channel. “This very meager meal was considered sufficient to feed a schoolboy” every noon for a week, notes the British weekly.

In recent days, many photos of the same kind have been found on the Internet and have been relayed several thousand times. All denounce food packages that are too little supplied to disadvantaged students. Usually beneficiaries of free lunch, some 1.4 million English children are currently receiving the food directly at home, due to the third national lockdown and the closure of schools. “In normal times, schools receive 11.50 pounds (12.90 euros) from the public authorities per week to provide lunches for disadvantaged children, contextualise The Spectator. During confinement, the amount rises to 15 pounds (16.80 euros) and schools are encouraged by the Ministry of Education to pay subcontractors to provide food packages. ”

Frequent recourse to subcontracting

Problem, the account is not there: on the photo relayed by the New Statesman, for example, “The same food would have cost only 5.22 pounds in the supermarket”. The left-wing magazine wonders in passing about the government’s propensity to call on private companies to provide a public service since the start of the pandemic. And this, “Sometimes through opaque procedures, for companies that get richer in the midst of a crisis.”

The outcry, fueled by footballer Marcus Rashford, reached the House of Commons on Wednesday, January 13. The Manchester United striker had already managed to secure the continuation of free meals during school holidays on two occasions last year, despite an initial refusal by the Conservative government.

Marcus Rashford Leader of the Opposition?

This time around, sharing photos from the angry parents on his Twitter account forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to acknowledge the character “Distressing and insulting” food packages. As a result, families will be able to benefit from 15-pound vouchers from next week. “Marcus Rashford just scored a new goal against the government”, have fun everyday The Guardian. The newspaper classified on the left even wonders if the 23-year-old has not become “More useful than the Labor opposition when it comes to holding the government to account”. On a more serious note, the daily continues:

At the end of the day, if malnutrition continues to be a government’s stumbling block, it is for one fundamental reason: the social safety net is far too thin to keep children from going hungry. The executive will continue to be vulnerable to the footballer’s campaigns until parents are able to feed their children in the UK from XXIe century.”

And the next campaign could come very quickly: on Thursday the government ruled out (for now) providing free meals during the February holidays.

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