Question to the Department for Education:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what checks are in place to ensure that private companies contracted to supply food parcels as part of the free school meals scheme comply with the guidance set by LACA, Public Health England and the Department for Education; and what penalties apply to contractors who fail to meet those standards.
The continuing provision of free school meals to children from out of work families or those on low incomes is of the utmost importance to this government.
School catering contracts are agreed locally. We have guidance in place allowing schools to decide the best approach for supporting free school meal pupils who are at home. This can be through lunch parcels, local vouchers or the national voucher scheme which will be up and running from next week.
The images circulating of poor-quality food parcels are unacceptable. On 13 January, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, met the leading school food suppliers and caterers to insist on urgent action to make sure lunch parcels meet the standards we expect. I’m grateful to those firms who are working hard with schools to provide nutritious, balanced lunches for children.
If a parent is concerned about the standards of their lunch parcel, they should speak directly with their school in the first instance. If the issue is not resolved then, a hotline is available at the department. The department will make contact with suppliers where concerns are escalated, to ensure they are following the good practice guidance we have set out. We will also alert the school to confirm appropriate contract management arrangements are in place, so that immediate improvements are made.