Johnson Promises Rashford He Will Fix U.K. School Food Failings

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U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson told soccer star Marcus Rashford that meager food packages sent to the poorest children are unacceptable and a full review of the supply chain is taking place.

Manchester United star Rashford has highlighted images of the food parcels sent to children at home to replace free lunches they would normally receive at school, which appeared to be worth far less than the 30 pounds ($41) per child per week that parents are entitled to.

Rashford said on Twitter Wednesday that Johnson told him he was “committed to correcting the issue with the food hampers.” Johnson’s office confirmed the conversation.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was “absolutely disgusted” by photos of the meager food parcels. “As a dad myself, I thought ‘how could a family in receipt of that really be expected to deliver five nutritious meals as is required?’” he told the Commons education committee. “It’s just not acceptable.”

Williamson said it had been “made absolutely clear” to Chartwells, one of the food suppliers behind the program, “that sort of behavior is just not right, it will not be tolerated, we will not live with that.”

He also confirmed that from next week, a national food voucher program will be available to all schools to allow parents to buy supplies themselves in supermarkets rather than receive food parcels. Local voucher systems are also in place.

Rashford led a successful campaign last year to ensure children would receive free school meals during the holidays, a campaign that was politically painful for Johnson. The latest row risks further casting a shadow over Johnson’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.

“In this instance, the image on Twitter falls short of our hamper specification,” Chartwells said in a statement Tuesday. “We are keen to investigate with the relevant school so we can address any operational issues that may have arisen.”

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