FOOD providers have been slammed as “parasites of the pandemic” by a Malvern councillor after a photo emerged of a meagre-looking food parcel from the government.

Cllr Samantha Charles attacked the government for outsourcing its free school meals after a local parent sent her a photo of the parcel. Supposedly worth £30, the parcel contained four cups of pasta, two tins of baked beans, one can of tomatoes, and a handful of potatoes and apples.

Cllr Charles said: “A parent wrote to me to show me what their free school meals hamper contained. Is this supposed to be £30 worth of lunches for a school child? 

“It looks like yet another case of the government helping its corporate friends become parasites of the pandemic, by outsourcing food hampers at a cost of £30 to the taxpayer, to provide no more than £5 of food to the child.

“Hunger is being used as a financial opportunity. Squeezing extra profit from hungry kids must stop. I have written to the school headteacher and county council to ask them to step in and return to the voucher scheme. Parents should be given the full amount to spend on feeding their children.”

The food parcels are being provided by the government following footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to ensure children across the country continue to receive free school meals during the holidays while the pandemic continues. The Manchester United and England forward’s campaign forced the government to make a U-turn after thousands of cafes and restaurants agreed to provide free food to children in need.

A number of similar photos to the one shared by Cllr Charles have appeared on social media in the last 24 hours, with many claiming the food provided is not worth the £30 promised.

West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin said: “I have been told by the minister that urgent action is being taken to look into this. If anyone locally has any specific concerns about particular school’s provision, I would really appreciate it if they could contact me.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed. Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food.” Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said on Twitter: “I will be looking into this urgently - food parcels should cover all lunchtime meals and be nutritious - we’ve increased funding for parcels and will support local vouchers.”