Trudy Dean, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Children, Young Persons and Education at County Hall reports.
Kent Liberal Democrats are calling for an improvement to children's lunch boxes after pictures of 'woefully inadequate' food parcels were shared on social media, including post from parents in Maidstone. If schools are unable to meet government standards, then parents should be given vouchers.
"It is completely unacceptable that parents have received woefully inadequate food parcels in place of free school meals.
"The amount of food parents have received to feed their children is not anything like enough to provide an adequate, nutritious lunch every day. Nor do they appear to represent value for money, given what the parcels should theoretically be worth.
"I have written to the Secretary of State asking him to investigate the situation urgently and replace these abysmal hampers with food vouchers.
"Time and time again, this Government has let children and families down on the issue of free school meals, which are critical to the education and future of so many children."Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrats Spokesperson for Education
Posts shared by parents in Maidstone showed packages some containing half of the government recommendation of some items, or substitutions without the same nutritional value.
Parents who are receiving poor standard food boxes should complain to the school who must take it up either with their outside contractor, as in most primary schools, or school governors must ensure their internal school dinner service is providing good quality food to government guidelines.
This is what the government's Department for Education and Public Health recommend the box should contain per child for five lunches:
- 1 loaf of bread or pack of rolls / 10-inch wraps.
- 2 baking potatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 3 large tomatoes or 1 pack of cherry tomatoes
- 1 standard tin sweetcorn in water
- 5 portions of fresh fruit (e.g. apples, satsumas, bananas)or 3 portions of fresh fruit and 1 tin fruit in juice (e.g. pears, peaches, fruit cocktail)
- 2 items from the following: 1 pack sliced cooked meat (e.g. chicken, ham or vegetarian alternative) or1 tin meat or 1 tin tuna in water or 6 eggs
- 200g block of cheese or 3 cheese portions
- 1 tin baked beans
- 1 500g pot plain low-fat yoghurt or 3 individual serving yoghurt pots
- 1 litre / 2 pints semi-skimmed
Many schools are providing a good quality box, often adding to the contents from their own school budgets, and staff are delivering them voluntarily where necessary.
Others are making a hash of it and government must get a grip on them so children do not go hungry.
Wherever schools cannot meet these minimum standards parents should be given vouchers, .
Liberal Democrats Spokesperson for Education, Daisy Cooper, has written to the Secretary of State for Education to urge him to investigate.