James O'Brien's reaction to the 'absolute debacle' of free school meal parcels

12 January 2021, 12:27

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien gives his reaction to the "absolute debacle" of the Government's free school meal parcels as parents share pictures online of what they have been given to feed their children for ten days.

The Government has promised to investigate after images showing "woefully inadequate" free school meal parcels were shared online.

Children's Minister Vicky Ford said she would "urgently" look into the matter after one mother posted an image of a £30 parcel which was estimated to contain just over £5 worth of food.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded the situation “a disgrace”, adding "this needs to be sorted immediately".

James reflected that if he gave listeners the job of providing children with packed lunches with a £30 budget for each, they would go out and get the most food possible.

"Looking at this picture is some manky old bananas, a tin of beans, a loaf of bread, some slices of cheese, two apples, two carrots, two potatoes, what appears to be a tomato and a couple of packets of fruit loaf," he said, positing that whichever company provided it "clearly" has not bought the maximum food for the budget.

Twitter user @RoadsideMum received the below package from Chartwells, a private company contracted by the Department for Education (DfE) to provide parcels instead of £30 worth of vouchers.

James said the mothers should all be given vouchers, because parents shouldn't be given cash "according to all the people who think the world's ills can be laid at the feet of Meghan Markle and Greta Thunberg and immigrants and Brussels...you can't give these people cash because that would involve treating them like human beings."

James cited Tory MP Ben Bradley who in October, in a similar sentiment, insinuated that giving away free school meal vouchers "effectively" gave money to "crack dens" and "brothels."

As children remain at home, the companies providing food parcels are "not only making a profit out of poverty, they're making a profit out of the pandemic," James said.

James said: "To go back to the Brexit conversation, and the abuse heaped upon people who are now being proved completely and incontrovertibly right about everything, from Donald Trump right through to fisherman...

"We were accused of being unpatriotic by people who will stand by and watch British children be served up with this absolute debacle of a dinner."