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The Guardian view on food parcels: stop these hunger games | Editorial

Inadequate lunches are the latest scandal from a government that continues to shirk its responsibility to ensure that schoolchildren are fed Children

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Inadequate lunches are the latest scandal from a government that continues to shirk its responsibility to ensure that schoolchildren are fed

Children need to eat. In England, at least 1.4 million of them, or 17.3%, are entitled to a lunch paid for by the government as part of the school day. In the north-east of England, the proportion is closer to 25%. These figures exclude reception classes and years 1 and 2, where all children’s meals are free. But as photographs that spread rapidly on social media have revealed, the arrangements put in place while schools are shut are not working. Instead of vouchers worth £30 (for two weeks), food parcels whose meagre contents are worth a fraction of that sum have been delivered.

The visual impact of the images, combined with an intervention by the footballer and food campaigner Marcus Rashford, meant that ministers reacted sharply, along with the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, who branded the parcels “a disgrace”. The caterer, Chartwells, was summoned to the Department for Education. But while it is dismaying to see yet another outsourcing failure, the problem goes deeper than a sloppy contract, or a failure to fulfil it properly. Deliveries of apples, dried pasta and lard are not only the wrong way to go about replacing school meals during a national emergency, they are an insult to the families who need them.

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