STRUGGLING families in Reading are relying on a company that has been accused of providing “unacceptable” food parcels.

While schools are closed during the national lockdown, Chartwells is being paid by the taxpayer to provide families of Reading children who are entitled to free school meals with weekly hampers that contain £15 worth of food.

Brighter Futures for Children - the company set up by Reading Borough Council to support vulnerable children - insists those families are receiving nutritious food in hampers that are prepared in line with national guidance.

Chartwells, which has been serving school meals in Reading since 2006, has come under fire after a mother claimed that it sent her £5.22 worth of food to feed her children for 10 days, when she is entitled to £30 of food.

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The anonymous woman posted a photograph of the food on Twitter and footballer Marcus Rashford, who is campaigning to end food poverty, described it as “unacceptable”.

The company, that is part of catering giant Compass Group, said the image “does not reflect the specification of one of our hampers” and promised to “investigate immediately”.


A Brighter Futures for Children spokesman said: “Chartwells is one of the providers supplying weekly food hampers to parents and guardians during lockdown if their children qualify for pupil premium free school meals and are at home due to partial school closure or, when schools are fully open, due to shielding or the need to self-isolate.

“The hamper content cost is equivalent to buying the same items in a supermarket.”

He added: “We have been advised by Chartwells the food parcels are in line with the nutritional guidance provided by the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA).”

When several other families then posted pictures of meagre food parcels online, Labour leader Keir Starmer weighed in, describing them as “woefully inadequate” and “a disgrace”.

The Department for Education says it is “looking into this” as food parcels “should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food”.

After the government closed schools as part of the national lockdown, it agreed to pay for food parcels or vouchers to be handed out to the families of children on free school meals.