Please Sir, I want some more
The appalling state of Free School Meals in lockdown
When my daughter went to collect her Free School Meal for lockdown, she was asked to wait for the Head Teacher. It turned out that the wait was so that he could personally apologise for what she was about to receive, and assure her that it would be vouchers from now on, with extra on the first one to make up for this. They had trusted the catering company, Innovate, who provided the rest of the school meals.
I was intrigued… what could be so wrong that they were this apologetic?
This what was was wrong…
From a catering company who supplies a school in a catchment area covering one of the 10% most deprived in England, this was provided to their most vulnerable students.
The contents are:
- Flavoured water
- Apple (in two of the bags, no fruit in the other two)
- 1/3 onion
- 100g pasta
- Granola (we think)
- Tomato soup powder
- 1/2 pepper
- Some carrot
- 1/2 tomato
- Potato (smaller than a fist)
They were packaged as seen in the photos, including using coin bags for cheese and soup powder.
This is to be divided into two meals by following these instructions.
I am aware that this has all come of somewhat of a shock, but a week ago this company expected to be feeding a school as normal. I do not see how they can be out of the ingredients for things such as the paninis that they usually provide, even if some meals such as lasagne cannot be easily transferable to home provision.
This tells our children that they do not matter. That all they are worth is food in unsafe packaging that will leave them hungry.
Children as young as 11 years old are being given this and expected to be able to prepare it. Many of them will be preparing it alone due to parents having to work — those on low incomes rarely have the luxury of a job that can be done from home. The changes to school curriculums mean that few of them have had any education in preparing and cooking food safely.
Parents on low incomes often lack the time or energy to cook from scratch for themselves, let alone teach children how to do it.
It is also coming with the assumption that there is the money for extra gas and electric. Again, for those who have forgotten, Free School Meals are for low income families. Often there is only enough cooking fuel for one meal a day.
The pandemic has hit everyone hard, but for many it has been life threatening, and I do not mean contracting the virus.
The Spring/Summer Lockdown brought its issues, but Winter Lockdown is far more dangerous for the poor. Houses which usually remain empty, with no heating and no lighting during the day suddenly need heating, lighting, and internet running so that children can be educated safely.
In a time of increased poverty, grief, worry, and poor mental health, in a time when decisions about education feel like they are being made on a flip of a coin, someone made the decision that this was acceptable for our children. They looked at that spread and felt that it would be fine for a teenager, a growing child, to prepare and eat.
This is what they think of the poor of this country.
This is what they think of our children.