Following the outcry over the inadequate free school meals hampers being offered to eligible families, the MD of Compass which owns Chartwells, the company embroiled in the scandal, has issued an apology.
Robin Mills, Compass Group UK & Ireland Managing Director 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.”
The apology comes as a letter coordinated by the Food Foundation and signed by Marcus Rashford MBE, Jamie Oliver, Dame Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and over 40 NGOs, Charities and Education Leaders has been sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to feed into the next Spending Review.
Meanwhile, Compass says it has 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
It adds: “Getting nutritious food to children at home during lockdown is critical. We are stepping up to meet this challenge in multiple ways, ensuring everything we do meets the exacting standards which rightly apply to children’s food.”
Measures include the:
- Creating of a supply chain specifically to serve children with these parcels
- Moving to one-week parcels to include more fresh produce
- Increasing the quantity and variety of products
- Providing a detailed recipe guide to help families prepare nutritious lunches
- Commitment to make no profit on the provision of food parcels
In an attempt of recompense for the week’s events, the Group has also promised to provide free breakfasts to all children currently receiving a Chartwell’s lunch parcel from 25 January for the duration of school closures and in addition, for those same children, will offer schools the option of lunch parcels through the February half term at no cost.
The statement concludes: “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.”