Yesterday the news broke nationally about concerns lunchtime food parcels that pupils eligible for free school meals were receiving during lockdown were insufficient.
During previous lockdowns, families received food vouchers, allowing the parents to choose how to feed their children. A change by the Conservative government meant that many parents would no longer receive these vouchers, but instead large catering companies got the contracts to supply boxes of food in their place.
Brading: No complaints
As played out on social media and on the national news, the concerns were that the food being supplied was not of a sufficient standard and didn’t match the same value as the vouchers that it was supposed to replace.
Here on the Island Cllr Paul Brading told the Scrutiny Committee last night (Tuesday) that they had received no complaints about the food parcels that were being provided. See more from the council below.
Island Mum speaks out
However, groups on Facebook heard a different story. News OnTheWight decided to speak to one mother about her experience after she posted a photo of the contents, explaining how it wouldn’t be enough to feed a hungry teenager.
Yesterday Lisa posted on Facebook about the food box that had been delivered to her.
Lisa’s view was that the food that had been delivered wasn’t even sufficient to provide a week’s work of lunches for her growing 15 year old son, never mind two weeks worth of food.
Adding that a number of the items arrived wrapped in cellophane, Lisa’s legitimate concern was that she had no idea what the Use By dates of the items were.
Less than a fiver’s food
News OnTheWight called her to discuss the situation today. Lisa said she’s totted up the value of what was delivered to her as £4.97.
When News OnTheWight asked the council how many days the boxes being delivered were supposed to cover, they said, “The current food parcel offer is a two week parcel and is equal to the value of the £28.50”.
Lisa: Where’s the rest of the money going?
She used to have vouchers and said she wasn’t made aware that things were changing, “The box just turned up.”
The council told us, if voucher’s were issued, they should be up £15 per eligible FSM pupil per week.
“With vouchers, I could have bought enough for ten days’ lunches, for £15 – just by choosing the right thing.
“If what’s delivered to me is worth under a fiver, where’s the rest of the money going?”
Responding to questions, Isle of Wight council told News OnTheWight the company providing the food boxes is Caterlink, who are based on the Mainland.
(Update: We spoke with Caterlink today (14th Jan), who told us they do not supply the food for the school that Lisa’s son is at. We’re in the process of finding out which company does supply this.)
We asked IWC, “Does IWC carry out checks on the food parcels that are being delivered? Are they satisfied with the quality/quantity of food?”
It’s worth pointing out that the FSM scheme this separate to the Connect4Communities programme, which provided food vouchers for children over the Christmas holiday period.
A spokesperson for Isle of Wight council told News OnTheWight,
“Funding has also been provided to supply vulnerable families with vouchers for the February half term too. The Connect4Communities programme has (and continues to) provide grant funding to organisations across the Island to support children and families in need. Information regarding these organisations and what they are offering can be found on the Website.
“In addition Connect4Communities has provided funding to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to support families who are experiencing financial hardship to support with fuel/water bills and can provide information and advice on the wider range of support currently available to families.
“The CAB can be contacted on tel: (01983) 823859, email: [email protected] and information is also available on their Website.”
Today (Wednesday) following campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford and food writer Jack Monroe, the government have performed a U-turn on the food parcels and will now be cutting out the middle-man allowing schools to decide whether they provide food parcels or vouchers (see the guidance).
This change in guidance would allow parents to choose what food they provide for their children for lunch during lockdown.
Other local support
Anybody needing further support should check the following Island organisations:
- Ventnor Community Foodbank
- Free Food in Sandown
- Aspire Ryde
- Isle of Wight foodbank
- HelpBank Isle of Wight
- Baby Box IOW
- Jigsaw Family Support
- Help Through Crisis
You can also check what benefits you’re entitled to, and apply for grants through the Turn 2 Us Website.
9:48pm 13th Jan 2021 – Removed some personal details
1.25pm 14th Jan 2021 – Added para about Use By dates
1.35pm 14th Jan 2021 – Added para that Caterlink said they do not have this contract.