'Our meal packages are substantial and made with quality products,' says Blackpool Council

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Blackpool Council moved to reassure parents that its free school meals were substantial after recent outrage over paltry portion sizes, nutritional content and value for money nationally.

The Government found itself under fire this week as images of food parcels sent to eligible children during the national lockdown circulated on social media.

Many parents took to different platforms to share their child's parcel, furious that despite its supposed value of around £15, the food was worth much less.

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Fylde coast parents share their experiences of free school meals during lockdown
A weekly food parcel provided by Blackpool Council. The council said the value of the contents was the equivalent of "around £1.95 a day." Photo: Blackpool CouncilA weekly food parcel provided by Blackpool Council. The council said the value of the contents was the equivalent of "around £1.95 a day." Photo: Blackpool Council
A weekly food parcel provided by Blackpool Council. The council said the value of the contents was the equivalent of "around £1.95 a day." Photo: Blackpool Council

The council also informed concerned parents that each meal provided through its catering teams came to the value of "around £1.95 per day."

A spokesman for Blackpool Council said: "We are aware of national activity and discussion circulating online regarding children's free school meals recently.

"Here in Blackpool, Blackpool Council's Catering Services team and Trevors Foodservice sprang into action as the third National Lockdown was announced to provide packages to schools in Blackpool that had asked for support.

"In less than 24 hours, thanks to a fantastic team effort, the Emergency Food Distribution Centre was ready to support our schools with free school meals. This week alone, the Catering Services team have prepared 1000 food packs, which is the equivalent of 5000 meals.

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"We'd like to reassure residents that all of our meal packages are substantial and are made with quality products, ensuring that Blackpool children receiving these parcels enjoy a decent, nutritious lunchtime meal each day. The team cater for dietary needs where required by the school.

"Schools have been asked by the government to work with their own catering team or provider to distribute a meal package or, where this is not possible, to provide a voucher. The cost of the package our team produces is in line with the usual daily cost for a free school meal and contains full-sized items.

"We send a huge thank you to all involved for their continual efforts in making this happen."

The council also advised that any parents who are struggling should contact their child's school for advice on any help available.

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The surge of measly meals posted online by parents across the UK received criticism from poverty campaigners, including Jack Monroe and footballer Marcus Rashford.

Mr Rashford slammed the meals as "unacceptable" and called for the Government to provide all schools with supermarket vouchers.

Chris Webb, Lancashire’s deputy police and crime commissioner, raised over £14,000 for Fylde coast children in October, with his campaign to make sure no child went hungry.

The campaign was launched after a vote in Parliament, in which MPs, including Blackpool South MP Scott Benton, voted against extending free school meals during school half term holidays.

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Mr Webb blasted the images of free school meals on social media, saying he felt private companies were using the school meals service as a "cash cow."

He said: "The images appearing online of woefully inadequate free school meal parcels are a complete disgrace.

"Private businesses are profiteering from our hungry children being provided disgracefully inadequate meals.

"Unfortunately, it’s taken Marcus Rashford to once again expose this scandal, if he hadn’t would it still be going on? I suspect it would.

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"How are children supposed to engage and continue their education at home whilst going hungry?

"In October thousands in Blackpool made their voices heard when the government refused to fund free school meals and local people stepped up.

"My fundraiser raised over £14,000 to ensure no child went hungry in Blackpool and now children are still going hungry.

"Not only are children being denied a proper meal but the taxpayer is being ripped off.

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"Our Blackpool MPs must make a stand and demand the Prime Minister fix this today. No child should be going hungry and free school meals are not a cash cow."

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