Cornwall Council has said it is seeking "urgent reassurance" over the quality and value of the food being given out to families in lockdown after pictures were shared online of "meagre food parcels". 

The council said it had contacted the companies that are providing food boxes for children who are eligible for free school meals and also asked schools to let staff know if they had any concerns about the quality of provision from their caterers so that, if necessary, it can follow up.

Sally Hawken, cabinet member for children and public health, said: “The government guidance is promoting the use of food parcels, but these must be of a good standard if they are going to support our families effectively.”

One mum contacted the council to share a photo of the food her family had received for a week's worth of meals, which contained one loaf of bread, four yoghurts, six eggs, a smallish bag of pasta, three potatoes, one tin each of tomatoes, beans and tuna, one banana, two carrots and a small portion of cheese, along with a further tin of food and a paper bag of which the contents are not clear.

The concerns in Cornwall follow similar concerns raised nationally, with Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been championing free schools meals for families throughout the pandemic, saying "We MUST do better" after images of free school meals sent to families were shared online, sparking a Government investigation.


The guidance from the Department for Education states:

  • Schools need to provide meal options for all children in school, which must be free for UIFSM and benefits-related FSM pupils, and must also provide meals for benefits-related FSM pupils who are not in school.For pupils not in school, there is an expectation that the preferred option should be food parcels and that other options such as vouchers should only be considered where food parcels cannot be provided.
  • Where food parcels are being provided, we encourage schools to monitor the content of boxes with consideration to the guidance above.
  • Schools should consider the particular circumstances of their school and their families in deciding what approach to take in providing for meals for children not in school. For example, the benefits of providing a balanced and nutritious food parcel and potential opportunities for welfare contact may need to be weighed against the practicalities for parents of collecting food parcels, including associated fuel costs / journeys of collecting food parcels.

The council said the Department for Educatino would again be opening up a national voucher scheme through an online portal as soon as possible.

To help schools cover the cost of food parcels additional funding will be made available; up to £3.50 per eligible pupil, per week, where food parcels are being provided and up to £15 per eligible pupil, per week, where vouchers for local shops or supermarkets are being provided.

Councillor Hawken added: “I have been contacted by worried parents, including one mum who shared with me an image of a food parcel she had received. It is not acceptable for less well off families to be short changed in this way.

“I understand that these food parcels were delivered at short notice after the decision to close schools, but we also need to ensure what is being provided is nutritious, balanced and good value for money.

“I welcome the government’s pledge to look into this matter.”