AN English Tory MP has come under fire for defending inadequate free school meals parcels by saying "the schools make the decision".

The Tory Government has promised to investigate after images shared online showed “woefully inadequate” free school meal parcels handed out by Chartwells, the firm hired by Downing Street to distribute the packages.

READ MORE: Receiving 'mean' food parcel was sad and depressing, mum says

It has also been highlighted that Chartwells UK, the catering company that supplies the food parcels, are providing strikingly different meals to private schools through their sister company, Chartwells Independent.

But Pauline Latham, who represents Mid Derbyshire, defended the government by saying they do not choose what food is put in the parcels.

"The schools make the decision," she told Channel 4. "It isn't the government. The schools decide whether they want to use local vouchers with a local provider. There are some national ones coming online any minute now. We don't give out cash as such."

She continued: "The whole point of this is to give a balanced meal for the children.

"It's only their lunch, it's not all meals every day. It's enough for lunches for a child for a week ... Usually."

When the host, Jon Snow, asked Latham whether she agreed that child poverty was unacceptable, she said: "This is a particularly difficult situation at the moment. Clearly, due to the pandemic, many people have unfortunately lost their jobs and are finding it very difficult to manage at the moment."

She added: "It is up to the schools to make that decision, they can give them the voucher. They can choose how the food gets to the pupils."

Latham was criticised for her comments on Twitter.

Jack Monroe, who has written several cook books about preparing meals on a budget, said the Latham's remark is "absolutely not true" and SNP MP Neale Hanvey said it is "indefensible".

Others said Latham's stance was predicatable.








Latham responded to the backlash by saying: "Many people have messaged me about my comments on free school meal boxes during a Channel 4 interview yesterday evening, and I would like to provide some context and clarification.

"First, in relation to the image posted by Roadside Mum yesterday, I completely agree that the food provided in that parcel was not enough. I said as much during the interview: ‘clearly what’s been seen on social media is inadequate’. I also stated that the Children’s Minister should verify the situation and ‘tackle the people who’ve handed this out’.

"No child should be going hungry at this time or ever and that was not in contention yesterday. Second, to blame the Government for this situation is really to misunderstand who is responsible for co-ordinating these school meal boxes.

She went on: "Schools have this responsibility and considerable flexibility in doing so. The Government guidance page states ‘The steps schools take during this national lockdown period will depend on local circumstances. This could include: providing lunch parcels through the school catering team or food provider [or] providing vouchers for a local shop or supermarket’. Where parcels are inadequate, the first step should be to approach the school and their suppliers. Not every failure is a failure of Government."

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Many people have messaged me about my comments on free school meal boxes during a Channel 4 interview yesterday evening, and I would like to provide some context and clarification.<br><br>First, in relation to the image posted by Roadside Mum yesterday, I completely agree (1/8)</p>— Pauline Latham (@Pauline_Latham) <a href="">January 13, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

At PMQs Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked Boris Johnson if he would be happy for his children to be living on such meals to which the Prime Minister told the Commons: “I don’t think anybody in this House is happy with the disgraceful images that we’ve seen of the food parcels that have been offered.

“They’re appalling, they’re an insult to the families that have received them.”

His comments came after Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford said he had spoken to the PM about the issues with parcels and he was told that “a full review of the supply chain” was underway.

The mother who shared the viral image of the meagre free school meal food parcel described how depressing it felt to look at its contents, estimated to contain just over £5 of food.

Sarah, who does not want to be identified to protect her two children, is disabled and relies on free school meals.

She told BBC Breakfast: “As I unpacked that food parcel in my living room and looked at the contents, it felt very sad and very depressing, and one of my children came in and saw me laying this out on the floor and asked why.

“I said I was going to picture it because I didn’t think it looked like a lot and I could see the child’s realisation that this is what I’ve been given to eat for a week, and just the sense of sadness.

“Where has the rest of the food gone? You know, this is meant to be a week’s food. Why is it so mean?”

It comes as Matt Hancock refused to say he regrets voting against free school meals – despite claiming to be “really glad” his government is now providing support.

READ MORE: Shameless Matt Hancock refuses to say he regrets voting down free school meals

The Health Secretary – accused of "gobsmacking" hypocrisy by the SNP – was quizzed on Good Morning Britain.

He said: "I'm really glad we're able to send out food for those who receive free school meals when schools are in, and I'm really glad we're able to do that when schools are out."

But co-host Piers Morgan interjected: "If you're that glad, can I ask you a question, why did you vote against it?"

"Well I'm really glad we're able to put it into place," the Health Secretary replied.

"Well if you're 'really glad' why did you as health secretary vote against this?" Morgan asked.

A stuttering Hancock answered: "Well ... because ... the reason I'm glad now is because we've been able to sort that out and put it in place".

"No thanks to you!" co-presenter Susanna Reid remarked.

"Let's be honest you got shamed into it by a young football player with a conscience who managed to prick the conscience of you and the government," added Morgan. "Do you regret now, given how glad you now are, voting against it?"

Hancock refused to give a concrete response, merely insisting that he's really "glad that we've managed to get this result".