Category Archives: School Meals

Shameless Tory Children’s Minister tries to steal credit for Marcus Rashford’s school meals campaign

Brazen: Ford’s false claims are disproved by her own voting record.

How brazen can these Tories be?

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford has told Good Morning Britain viewers that she – not Marcus Rashford – was the person who got the government to extend free school meals into the holidays during the Covid-19 crisis, and who created lockdown meal vouchers.

She said she was not influenced by Rashford’s campaign at all.

Her claim has been ridiculed by those of us who can read Hansard, which shows that she voted against demands for such schemes – twice.

See for yourself:

Social media commentators have used the claim to make Ford a target for ridicule – and rightly so:

I want to know what Marcus Rashford – who received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List last year for his  services to vulnerable children in the UK during COVID-19, has to say about Ms Ford’s claims.

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After another SERIES of ‘free school meals’ scandals, Rashford demands overhaul of the whole system

Marcus Rashford: he wins campaigns against Boris Johnson’s government (unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour Party) so it is welcome that he is spearheading this call for an all-encompassing review of government policy on child food poverty.

After the second ‘Free School Meals’ scandal in three days, This Writer feels sure I was among many people who wondered why Marcus Rashford – now generally accepted as the Opposition to the Tory government in such matters – had not spoken up.

Now we know.

Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing the government to provide free school meals during Covid-19 lockdowns and during holidays – including Christmas – when the Tories wanted children to starve, has not confined himself to a single FSM-related issue.

Instead he has joined with celebrity chefs and campaigners to demand a full review of Tory policy on child food poverty which they rightly say is not fit for purpose.

They have written a letter to Boris Johnson and his trained-ape-serving-as-Education-Secretary, Gavin Williamson, here:

It deserves to be reproduced in full:

 We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the Government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term. We are ready and willing to support your Government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support. It is only by working together that we end child food poverty.

We know that all political parties agree on the outcome that we are aiming for – ensuring that all children have access to enough health, good-quality food to fulfil their potential. Last Autumn, the Government announced several very positive new measures to help combat child hunger, and we strongly welcomed those announcements. This week, we were heartened to see the Department for Education’s swift response to reports of inadequate Free School Meal food parcels being provided by private companies. The robustness of the message from you and the Secretary of State on this issue was very welcome.

I can only assume the last two sentences of this paragraph were included to butter Johnson up, as most of the nation was horrified that Johnson had contracted out responsibility to provide £30 food parcels to private, profit-making firms who did what came naturally – skimmed off five-sixths of the cash in profit and provided £5 worth of food to cover children’s meals for 10 days.

Some Tories even went on the record to say they couldn’t understand the fuss as this was only supposed to provide for a single meal in the day – without realising that their right-wing policies have stamped on families so hard that this may be the only food those children see in a day.

Despite these positive commitments, we strongly feel that now (following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic) is the right moment for you to step back and review the policy in more depth. The signatories to this letter urge the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to provide recommendations for the next Spending Review.

This would allow the Government to provide strong national leadership on children’s food so that our nation’s most disadvantaged children and their families, already disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, don’t continue to bear the brunt. In the first lockdown (March-August), 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank. Free School Meals are a very important part of the safety net that protects children from impoverished families from hunger and poor nutrition.

We believe the review should be debated in Parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays. The process will require collaboration from politicians in all the devolved nations with responsibility for school food in their regions, and must involve close consultation with children and young people, as well as teachers, charities, NGOs, frontline catering staff and school meals service providers. It should draw on evidence of food insecurity and health inequalities. We stand ready to provide our full support to the review process.

And experience tells us that the only people Boris Johnson’s government likes to consult are those who are likely to agree with what he wants to do; dissenting voices are ignored. This will make it very difficult for the Tories to devise a strategy that works for any group wider than the Conservative government of Boris Johnson.

We recommend that its scope include:

1. The current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals. The Government should seek to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded from Free School Meal eligibility (in line with National Food Strategy recommendations) and to work with the Devolved Administrations to eliminate disparities between the nations. Current estimates show 2 in 5 UK children under the poverty line are missing out. The ongoing eligibility for children from No Recourse to Public Funds should be address explicitly.

2. How funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.

3. How schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer. This should include introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and examining how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.

4. What we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.

5. Ensuring that existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday provision and breakfast provision) eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health, and education.

6. The role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

The Tory response to this should be interesting. Tories habitually say families should be able to provide for their own children, despite the fact that their own policies have squeezed family incomes beyond breaking-point. It’s no good saying people should be able to afford things when you are responsible for ensuring that they can’t!

This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic. It would also demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan.

I foresee difficulties.

Already the Welsh Government – which is run by the Labour Party – has taken to Twitter to let people in Wales know that the problems created by the Tories in England do not affect them:

The Tories are hardly going to want to work with organisations that are merrily scoring points off them.

School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children. Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step.

The letter is signed by Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and by representatives of Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, the Children Society, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s First Alliance, Feeding Britain, Soil Association, The Bread and Butter Thing, Mayor’s Fund for London, The School Food People, Meals & More, Poverty and Inequality Commission, Independent Food Aid Network UK, Impact on Urban Health, The Fair Education Alliance, the WI, ASSIST FM, Magic Breakfast, Turn2Us, Buttle UK, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, End Child Poverty Coalition, TACT, Scottish Qut of School Care Network, Khulisa UK, The Mighty Creatives, The Equality Trust, One Parent Families Scotland, End Furniture Poverty, Family Action, USDAW, Child Poverty Action Group, Biteback 2030, Just Fair, Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre, Oxford, Co-Op Retail, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Psychological Society, British Association of Social Workers, Association of School and College Leaders, King’s Cross Academy, Academies Enterprise Trust, Cabot Learning Federation, Co-op Academies Trust, The Shared Learning Trust, The Eden Academy Trust, LDBS Academies Trusts, National Governance Association, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Teach First.

I include the whole list because I think it is important for us to understand the sheer number of organisations that now exist to address children’s food poverty – or have to address it as part of their wider activities.

This has only become such a major issue because the Conservatives have forced so many families into food poverty.

So it seems worthwhile to raise the issue of whether we should stop allowing Conservative Party members to form governments that inflict such misery, such starvation, on so many millions of us, just so a tiny minority can live in the kind of luxury that most of us cannot even imagine.

There’s only one question left to ask:

Why is Rashford doing the Labour Party’s job? If Jeremy Corbyn was still party leader, Labour would be all over this.

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After ‘hamper’ fiasco, Tories want to deny kids free school meals during half term week. But what are they hiding with all this noise?

Scandal: only two days ago, the Tory government came under attack for letting an outsourcing company skim £25 in profit from the cost of a £30 food hamper FOR CHILDREN. Now the Tories are trying to confuse parents by forcing them to apply to their local council for food vouchers over half term week. Is it all a big distraction from something else they don’t want us to see?

Isn’t it incredible?

Days after they were found to have been starving children by outsourcing £30 ‘free school meal’ hampers to a company that provided only £5 worth of food and kept the other £25 to itself, the Conservative government has announced a plan to starve schoolkids during half term week.

They say they won’t allow schools to provide free meals to pupils who usually get them; instead, local councils have been given responsibility to provide food under the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.

This scheme provided £170 million to councils in December. Under it, families have to apply to their local council for help, and will get a £15 voucher for each qualifying child.

It seems a deliberate attempt to cause confusion by switching schemes just when families need clarity.

And how much of that £170m fund has been spent already? It’s not a lot, divided across the whole of England (other UK countries have equivalent schemes, according to the government).

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned that switching schemes meant “yet more disruption to free schools meals could lie ahead in half term”.

He said that rather than allowing schools to carry on providing food it would cause an “unnecessary logistical nightmare”.

He said ministers should now “hang their heads in shame” for threatening more “chaos and confusion” over providing food.

“These are battles which should not have to be repeatedly fought,” said Mr Courtney.

But they are.

And both the media and the public tend to focus on recurring issues like this, to the exclusion of other matters happening at the time.

School meals don’t cost a huge amount – in government terms – and it won’t cause too much upset if the Tories are forced to capitulate again.

So This Writer is left to ask what else is happening that the Tories don’t want us to know?

Source: Row over half term free school meals plan – BBC News

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#FreeSchoolMeals scandal: ‘£30’ shopping basket provides just ‘£5’ of food because the Tories outsourced provision

Let’s not beat around the bush: your lovable Conservative government led by cuddly Boris Johnson deliberately starved schoolchildren by outsourcing free school meals to a very expensive company – because it was part of the so-called ‘chumocracy’.

The government had promised to provide £30 to feed children for periods lasting 10 days.

But rather than giving vouchers to parents so they could buy the food themselves, or even tasking local authorities to do it, the Department for Education outsourced the job to private, profit-making firms.

One of these firms is called Chartwells. It seems it won the contract as part of the so-called ‘chumocracy’ – it is part of the food service giant Compass Group whose former chairman, Paul Walsh, was once a member of David Cameron’s business advisory group.

Instead of putting all £30 into food hampers for hungry children, it seems Chartwells provided just £5.22 worth of food and kept the remaining £24.78 as profit.

Food parcels have been brought in to replace £30 vouchers given to parents to spend in supermarkets as schools close for remote learning. But one mum valued the contents of her parcel at no more than £5.22, if bought from Asda.

She was given two jacket potatoes, a can of beans, eight single cheese slices, a loaf of bread, two carrots, three apples, two Soreen Malt Lunchbox Loaves, three Frubes, some pasta and one tomato.

Chartwells has protested that it followed Department for Education guidelines – which throws the blame back towards the Tories – but has also admitted that details of the contents of its hampers do not conform with its own specifications.

Whichever way you slice it, someone has been creaming cash from this scheme and allowing children to starve – and the only reason they’ve managed it is because of the Tory obsession with privatisation.

It is a ridiculous state of affairs. Everybody in the Tory government, from Johnson down, knows that giving a contract to a private company means it will keep some of the cash for itself.

So a claim to be providing £30 to feed children is a lie. They were always providing £30 to their friends in food companies.

Sadly, many of the parents whose children are now being forced to starve on pennies-worth of food per day actually voted for this treatment in December 2019.

The question has to be asked: why weren’t vouchers provided to parents?

Was it because another Tory – Ben Bradley – put out a false claim that they would squander the money on “crack dens” and “brothels”, even though the vouchers that existed at the time specifically prohibited their use for such purposes?

It only takes a piece of fake news like this from one influential source to influence large numbers of people into believing the lie, and I wonder whether this was what enabled the Tory government to starve children in the way it has.

Think of it this way: Isn’t it odd that many people get outraged at the (faked) possibility of someone spending a fraction of a food voucher on alcohol (more likely than Bradley’s choices but still impossible) – but don’t bat an eyelid when private firms take 80 per cent of food vouchers for their own profits?

Perhaps the most pertinent comment on this whole shabby affair is the following:

Sadly, it would have been necessary for millions of people to have voted a different way in 2019 for that to have happened. And something stopped them:

Source: Free school meals firm with Tory links shamed over £30 shopping basket | Metro News

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Just desserts as MP who wants to starve children in holidays receives graffiti critique

What did George “Useless” Eustice expect?

After the Tory Environment Secretary defended his government’s determination to starve poverty-stricken children during the school holidays – including Christmas – people in his Cornwall constituency have retaliated with a “Banksy”-style graffiti criticism.

The text reads:

“Georgie Porgie pudding and pie,
“Starved the kids and made them cry.
“#endchildfoodpoverty”

The artist even painted it onto a board that was then discovered attached to the front door of his constituency office:

Tories like Eustice thought members of the public have short memories and would forget that the decision to starve children at Christmas had been made by them.

Responses like this make the point clear:

They thought wrong.

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Don’t let them get away with it: next time Tories mention £63m fund to feed kids, remind them it has been SPENT

Money, money, money: and none of it is for hungry children. The £63m fund mentioned so often by Boris Johnson and others was not for that purpose and was all spent before they even started talking it up.

You know that £63 million fund Conservative ministers like Robert Jenrick, Nadhim Zahawi, Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson keep saying is available to feed poor children over school holidays?

It was all spent weeks ago.

It came to only a few hundred thousand pounds per council.

When they Tories provided it in July, it was with a proviso that the money had to be spent within 12 weeks.

And it wasn’t specifically for feeding hungry children anyway.

Here’s Peter Stefanovic:

Don’t let them get away with it.

Next time a Tory minister turns up on the media peddling this lie, complain.

Complain to that minister personally, and also to the media outlet, be it the BBC, Sky News or some local radio station operating out of a Portakabin.

Let’s expose these liars and child-starvers for what they are.

Note: This Site has been reminded that a handful of Conservatives voted in favour of feeding children during the school holidays, in rebellion against their party’s line that called for your kids to starve. Obviously they should not be targeted during protests. The are:

Caroline Ansell( quit Government post)
Robert Halfon
Jason McCartney
Anne Marie Morris
Holly Mumby-Croft

No doubt there are perfectly good reasons to criticise the above-named people as well – they are Tories, after all – but this isn’t one of them.

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George ‘Useless’ Eustace doubles down on lie that Tory government has provided money to feed kids

Defending the indefensible: Environment Secretary George Eustice believes children should starve during the holidays, asylum seekers should drown and people should die of Covid-19 rather than let the economy be harmed.

There’s a good reason his nickname is ‘Useless’.

Environment Secretary George Eustace has repeated the insistence of Boris Johnson’s government that it will not provide any funding to feed poverty-stricken children at Christmas.

Interviewed by Kay Burley on Sky News, he said:

Burley provided robust rebuttals of his claims, and could have also pointed out that there is a five-week wait before Universal Credit claims are honoured (if they are allowed) – and that free school meals were provided outside of term time earlier this year because of the Covid-19 crisis that has forced millions of people to take a huge pay cut and that crisis is still going on.

As for the £63 million fund to councils…

Useless – sorry, Eustice – covered himself with shame during his trip round the TV stations today (October 28).

After two adults and two children died on a boat trying to get into the UK, he supported Priti Patel’s line that, rather than creating a new system which would allow asylum seekers to apply for refuge in the UK from outside its borders, the UK should block off all legal channels to do so.

This, of course, creates a huge market for illegal traffickers to send would-be migrants on unsafe channel crossings in which they may die. To Dan Walker on BBC Breakfast, Eustice said:

As you can tell, he doesn’t care if Johnny or Jane Foreigner dies; he just wants to keep them out.

To top it all, when Walker asked why the Johnson government ignored the advice of SAGE to have a lockdown in September in order to avoid having more than 200 deaths a day by mid-November – advice which seems to have been borne out by the fact that 367 deaths were recorded yesterday (October 27) – Useless Eustice said Johnson had chosen to do what he thought was right for the economy, not for the people:

Eustice is a former public relations executive who apparently learned his journalism at Cornwall College in Pool, Cornwall – which happens to be where This Writer did a postgraduate course in journalism.

I don’t think he was there when I was. Otherwise I would now be filled with regret for missing the opportunity to contribute to the national well-being by putting him off politics.

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Now the #ToryScum are squabbling among themselves about #FreeSchoolMeals

Gavin Williamson: did he really ask Rishi Sunak’s Treasury for £150 million to provide meals for poverty-stricken children during school holidays?

Conservative cabinet ministers have started in-fighting over responsibility for blocking the provision of meals to poverty-stricken children during school holidays.

Somebody, it seems, has claimed that the Treasury blocked a request for £150 million to pay for such a scheme.

But Chancellor Rishi Sunak has hotly denied this, claiming that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson never asked for the funds.

Treasury sources said there had been no request from the education secretary for the £150m to provide meals for 1.4 million disadvantaged pupils during the holiday.

It seems perfectly reasonable to suppose that Sunak is right, in fact.

The call for the government to fund the meals came originally from footballer Marcus Rashford, and it was Labour who took it to Parliament in an Opposition Day debate last week – when the Tories ensured that it was rejected.

So it seems to me that Williamson would have had no reason to ask for the cash to make it happen.

Boris Johnson has since said that his government will not u-turn on the decision, no matter how hard public opinion turns against it.

His comments, along with the claim that no request has been made for the cash, will make it very hard for him to change his mind (as he often does if the focus groups tell him he needs to).

And he managed to cause trouble for himself by claiming local authorities could draw on a £63 million fund that his government has already created.

Council leaders angrily pointed out that the fund was intended to cover a wide range of hardships created by the Covid-19 crisis and most of it has been used.

Meanwhile, Nadhim Zahawi told Kay Burley of Sky News that kids were more interested in football than food:

The Tories have argued themselves into a corner and are digging themselves a hole in order to escape.

If I didn’t have some already, I’d be buying popcorn.

Source: Treasury rejects claims it refused extra £150m for free school meals | Education | The Guardian

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#ToryFoodTips: the public response to Johnson’s claim that he won’t let children go hungry

Make no mistake – this is an expression of disbelief in Tory promises by the social media-using public.

Boris Johnson has refused to u-turn on his refusal to provide free school meals for children.

Some of you may consider that to be positive proof that a u-turn is coming, but while we wait, we should consider his words, that the government will “do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry”.

The obvious thing to do would be to spend some money into the economy to ensure that they can enjoy a good nutritious meal – and the easiest way to do that is by funding free school meals!

Failing that, what else can the Tories do?

Some commenters on Twitter think they might offer advice on how  to make cheap and easy meals – and have offered suggestions on the form this advice may take, using the hashtag #ToryFoodTips:

You’ll notice that the tone of the advice changes, depending on the kind of person for whom it is intended – which leads me to this:

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Welsh Tory MP voted to starve English children while Welsh Labour feeds those in her constituency

I raise this to point out the hypocrisy of Conservative MPs.

Last December, people in This Writer’s constituency – Brecon and Radnorshire, in Wales – voted Conservative Fay Jones into Parliament as their MP.

The Welsh government – run by the Labour Party – has already legislated to ensure that children who have been flung into poverty by UK-wide Tory policies and/or by the Covid-19 crisis will enjoy free school meals to ensure they do not grow hungry.

Last week, Jones was among the 322 MPs who voted to ensure that English children – afflicted in the same way by Tory policies – starve.

What utter hypocrisy.

The worst part of it is that people here will probably vote for her again, in the mistaken impression that she had something to do with the decision to provide free meals for children here in Wales.

I note that Ms Jones has been in Parliament for less than a year but has already incurred expenses claims totalling £25,717.57 – equivalent to the average wage in the UK – on top of her MP salary of around £82,000. She seems far more a waste of money than English children – the feeding of whom I would consider to be more an investment.

It is notable that she has also received a supporting donation from the bottled water company Radnor Hills, totalling £10,000.

Considering that fellow Tory MP Selaine Saxby has said she hopes firms providing food to starving English children should not seek government support, it seems appropriate that this firm (that would receive any such support from the Labour-run Welsh government, rather than Westminster) should be deprived of public support in return for backing Jones.

Don’t you agree?

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