The boss of Compass Group’s UK operations has released a statement outlining its free school meal food parcel commitments and issued an apology following the row that has blown up over its Chartwells subsidiary this week.
Chartwells came under fire after an image (below) was posted on social media of a meagre school food parcel intended to last one week, with footballer and school meals campaigner Marcus Rashford retweeting a link to it to his four million followers.
(Note that the main image in this article shows an example of what a free five-day school meal food parcel for primary school children should look like).
Compass Group’sS UK & Ireland managing director, Robin Cover, this evening broke cover to comment on the matter.
He said: “As managing director of Compass Group UK and Ireland, the company which owns Chartwells, I want to tell you what’s happened with our free school meal parcels following school closures and – most importantly – what we’re doing to put things right.
“The first thing I want to do, personally and on behalf of Chartwells and Compass, is to say sorry. The quality and quantity of the produce in the images on Twitter fell short of our usual standards.
“We’ve undertaken a number of immediate actions to put things right:
– Apologised to parents who have contacted us about their parcels.
– Committed that we will not charge the schools affected by any shortage.
– Created extra quality assurance checks at the supplier level and within each individual school – including photographing every batch of parcels when it goes out.
– Confirmed that our colleagues in each school will sign off on batches of parcels as they leave the school.
– Allocated additional Chartwells employees and provided extra guidance to support them.
– Set up a free helpline for concerned schools and parents that will go live on Monday.
“Getting nutritious food to children at home during lockdown is critical.”
Mr Mills insisted the company was “stepping up” to meet the challenges in multiple ways, including creating a supply chain specifically to serve children with these parcels, moving to one-week parcels to include more fresh produce and increasing the quantity and variety of products.
It is also providing a detailed recipe guide to help families prepare nutritious lunches and committed that it makes no profit on the provision of food parcels.
Additionally, Mr Mills pledged to provide free breakfasts to all children currently receiving a Chartwells lunch parcel from 25 January for the duration of school closures.
In addition, for those same children, it will offer schools the option of lunch parcels through the February half term at no cost.
He added: “As a member of the Marcus Rashford Child Poverty Taskforce, we are very focused on the review of the free school meals system. We have also engaged closely with policymakers, and together with the industry we have developed a series of protocols to ensure this doesn’t happen again. We are moving quickly to fix the problem and to deliver on our commitments.”