Bucks man behind Chartwells the catering firm producing 'unacceptable' free school meal parcels

Buckinghamshire's Charlie Brown oversees the company facing heavy criticism for the quality of hampers sent to families entitled to free school meals.

Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 5:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 5:10 pm

Mr Brown works for Compass Group a massive multinational food service group which has operations in 45 different countries. He is managing director of Chartwells the catering company whose hampers were widely criticised for offering poor value to hungry children dependent on free meals.

Mr Brown's profile on the Compass Group website also lists him as the managing director for Compass Group's government services.

Parents shared photos of hampers supposed provide 10 days worth of food that are being paid for by taxpayers, believing the hampers to be worth barely over £5.

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Twitter user @RoadsideMum shared an image of the food parcel she had been sent, which was intended to provide enough food for lunch for 10 days.

The parcel, supplied by Chartwells contained a loaf of bread, a tin of beans, two bananas, two carrots, three small apples, two potatoes, a small bag of pasta, sliced cheese and two small Soreen bars.

In a follow up tweet, @RoadsideMum added up the estimated cost of each item, saying: “Public funds were charged £30. I’d have bought this for £5.22.”

A spokesperson for Chartwells said: “We take our responsibility to provide children with access to nutritious food very seriously. We have worked hard to produce food hampers at incredibly short notice during these challenging times.

A majority of the contents from one of Chartwells hampers designed to provide children with 10 separate meals

“Our hampers follow the DofE specifications and contain a variety of ingredients to support families in providing meals throughout the week. In the majority of instances, we have received positive feedback.

Footballer and child-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford described the food offering as “unacceptable” before sharing further images of other similar parcels sent to him on social media.

After Mr Rashford led a campaign arguing for more support for the poorest families during the pandemic, the Government eventually agreed to provide families with vouchers worth £30 to purchase food while children aren’t in school.

Responding to the images, the official Department for Education Twitter account said the matter is being looked into adding: “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.”

Government guidance on Free School Meals states that the “significant benefits” of providing food parcels include “the confidence that a nutritious and varied range of food is being provided [...] reducing the risk of food waste [and] the continuation of financial support to school caterers."