Marcus Rashford Kicks Off Over Meager School Food Parcels

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Manchester United soccer star Marcus Rashford reignited his criticism of the U.K. government’s free school meals program, highlighting another potential embarrassment for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Rashford said food packages offered to the poorest families while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic are “unacceptable” after images on social media showed the meager contents of the “hampers.”

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 his government’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.

The government’s previous free school meal voucher program gave parents 30 pounds ($41) per child per week, and the contents of the hampers appears to be worth less. That program will be brought back shortly, Johnson’s spokesman Jamie Davies said on a call with reporters on Tuesday.

‘Unacceptable’

“Those parcels that were shown in those images are completely unacceptable,” Davies said. “Food parcels should contain items which parents can use to prepare healthy lunches for their children throughout the week.”

Rashford said he talked with Chartwells, one of the food suppliers behind the program, and said the company would meet with the government on Tuesday. The company, which is a unit of Compass Group Plc, said its hampers follow specifications set by the Department of Education and contain a variety of ingredients to support families.

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

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, described the images circulating online as a “disgrace” and called for quick government action to provide for poor children.

“Where is the money going?” Starmer said in a tweet. “This needs sorting immediately so families don’t go hungry through lockdown.”

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