On Tuesday, social media was flooded with images of food packages that had been sent to families requiring them during lockdown as they no longer have access to free school meals. However, the packages, which had been sent and organised by the foodservice Chartwells, caused fury as they featured such items as half a pepper, a part of a carrot and a money bag half full of tuna.
During Wednesday’s PMQs, Boris Johnson was challenged on the issue by Labour leader Keir Starmer asked the prime minister “if he would be happy with his kids living on that and if not why is he happy for other people’s kids to do so?”
Johnson responded by saying that nobody in the Commons is happy with the “disgraceful images we’ve seen of the food parcels that have been offered.”
The PM added that the packages were "appalling and an insult to the families" but took the opportunity to have a dig at Starmer and Labour.
Johnson thanked Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been spearheading the campaign since the summer by saying thank you to the sports star who is “doing an effective job by comparison to the right honourable gentleman in holding the government to account.”
Starmer appeared to accept Johnson’s challenge to hold the government accountable by reading out the government guidance on free school meals.
Starmer said “This is from the department of education prime minister, you want to be held account: one loaf of bread, two baked potatoes, block of cheese, baked beans, three individual yoghurts. Sound familiar? That’s the images prime minister that you just called ‘disgraceful.’ The only difference I can see in this list and what the prime minister just described as ‘disgraceful’ is a tin of sweetcorn, a packet of ham and a bottle of milk.”
Starmer asked Johnson to take down this guidance by the end of the day and ensure that children can get a decent meal during the pandemic.
Boris Johnson just said to me that the images of Free School Meals shared on social media were "disgraceful".
Johnson started his response by calling Starmer’s challenge “hypocritical and absurd” but was accosted by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle who told the prime minister to maintain a level of respect and discipline in the Commons and asked him to withdraw his comments.
Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle castigates Boris Johnson for accusing Sir Keir Starmer of "hypocrisy" over the free s… https://t.co/quTajTHw6a
Johnson has reportedly committed to a" full review" of how the ‘disgraceful packages’ were sent to families following a phone call with Rashford. In a tweet, the anti-poverty campaigner said “He [Johnson] has assured me that he is committed to correcting the issue with the food hampers and that a full review of the supply chain is taking place. He agrees that images of hampers being shared on Twitter are unacceptable.”