Nellie K on 08 February 2021
Question thumbnail
Q. Do your children normally receive means-tested Free School Meals?
Q. Have you received any support with food for your children since schools have been closed? And if you have, what was the support like?
We’ve had a mixed bag of support. Our first bit of help was the food parcel over Christmas, as part of the Covid Winter grant, delivered by school. They had obviously tried, but when you’re choosing food for another family you’re never going to get it right. There was a fair portion of the parcel my children won’t eat - eg. spaghetti hoops, tinned fruit, tinned soup, tinned rice pudding - and a serious lack of fresh fruit and veg. While they’d taken into account my youngest food allergy, they’d bought food from the free from aisle which is super expensive (we never get that stuff). Overall, I thought that I could have bought more, and definitely more stuff tailored to my children’s diets and preferences, had I had the money instead. I was very cross that 25% of the parcel was treats/puddings - biscuits and jelly don’t fill tummies. We cook a lot from scratch, as it’s cheaper and healthier. We would have preferred things like tinned tomatoes, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, fresh meat, eggs. It’s the expensive things we struggle to buy, not cheap tinned products. Our second experience was free school meal provision when schools closed in January. The first 4 weeks were awful. Definitely not £15 a weeks worth - a loaf of bread, 5 yoghurts, 5 biscuits, and handful of grated cheese, a tin of tuna and sachets of butter and Mayo. Zero fruit. In addition anything like yoghurts and treats I have to match for my 2yr old - we eat dinner together. So I then have to buy more things that I wouldn’t normally buy so he can have a similar lunch. After the uproar on social media, we were then offered vouchers. It’s much better for us. My only annoyance is that not all supermarkets let you use it online. This is really not conducive with trying to keep people at home, and limiting the amount of people who go to the supermarket. I don’t want to take 2 children round the shop in this current climate. We have had another food parcel from the Covid winter grant and am expecting a last one by the end of February. I didn’t expect there to be more than one so it’s a welcome surprise. The second parcel was marginally better (with a little fresh veg and fruit), but there was still a fair portion that my children won’t eat that could have been spent on something more useful, and still too many biscuits, cakes and crisps. Another surprise has been from the local Shipley town council. They’ve given the school some money who have spent it on Asda vouchers for us. We pick ours up later this week. I feel very lucky to live in an area that is so community spirited. Overall, I feel we have been supported, and I’m very grateful for the help we have received. My one bug bear though is the insistence on food parcels over vouchers. If I’m trusted with vouchers over pre-bought parcels I can spend the money more wisely, get more things, and tailor what I buy to my family. There would be much less waste. I probably have more knowledge and experience of making money stretch, and know what food I can buy to meet my sons allergy needs without buying all the expensive stuff. I can also choose healthier options - natural yoghurt instead of Frubes, fresh fruit instead of tinned fruit in syrup, porridge and wheat biscuits instead of cornflakes, and less bloody biscuits/jelly/custard/rice pudding/cakes/crisps!
Contributors featured in
More media logos