Hunger Games


The image captures the bitter nasty punitive nature of Tory Britain. This is class war in a pandemic and reflects a government riven with corruption, nepotism and greed. As Priya Gopal has put it:

“I cannot think of a more perfect metonym for Conservative government: privatised public services stealing from the public purse and the poor’ … ‘Thieves, skimmers, skivers and parasites’

The Metro reported that the parents of children who qualify for free school meals have shared pictures of the small amount of food they’ve been given to last them ten days. Food parcels have been brought in to replace £30 vouchers given to parents to spend in supermarkets as schools close for remote learning. But one mum valued the contents of her parcel at no more than £5.22, if it had been bought from Asda. She was given two jacket potatoes, a can of beans, eight single cheese slices, a loaf of bread, two carrots, three apples, two Soreen Malt Lunchbox Loaves, three Frubes, some pasta and one tomato.’
Some parcels were supplied by private catering company Chartwells, which is part of the food service giant Compass Group. The group’s former chairman, Paul Walsh, was once a member of David Cameron’s business advisory group.’
A spokesperson later added: “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.”
“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.”
I’m struggling to believe that Chartwells has been inundated with people emailing them to thank them for their carrot stub. The whole episode just reeks of the bureaucratic and the exploitative, the worst elements of corporate rip-off Britain with its naked contempt for the poorest in society and its shameless profiteering. To add insult to injury, as the food campaigner Jack Monroe points out:

Now its turned out that Chartwells company, Chartwells Independent, offers luxurious gourmet food for private schools, including “a selection of canapés for Norwich School, coconut, lemongrass and banana leaf wrapped salmon for New Hall school and bouillabaisse at Chigwell School.”
There’s layers and layers to this disgrace. The government has been dragged to providing school meals in the lockdown by campaigners, forced to u-turn and now is handing out contracts to its supporters to profiteer from hunger. This travesty is perpetrated on a mass scale by school meals – the cost of which are routinely hidden by “commercial sensitivity” but, as well know are produced for a pittance.
But the image that is seared into my mind is the carrot stump. Like something you’d feed an animal.
But this is the acute difference between private exploitation and public good. As Lewis MacLachlan – the man behind Empty Kitchens Full Hearts puts it: “Since everyone cares about food poverty again here is what £30 will really buys. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for 60 citizens in crisis. I’d encourage you to all put down your anger at a private company doing what a private company was always going to do and instead focus it on asking ‘what is the baseline of our society?’

It doesn’t have to be like this.
It’s to easy to be dragged down in to this mentality and for all of this to be normalised. But food doesn’t have to be captured by private companies. People don’t need to be in mass food poverty. School meals could be part of a local economy, highly nutritious, a key to food re-skilling, and community building. School meals in other countries are of a high standard and are a moment for conviviality, sociability and joy.
The lack of any compassion, solidarity or generosity is shocking but revelatory. We need to have much much higher ambition for our schools and dispense with all of this. These are our children, what are we doing?
How we feed each other is a refection of the state of our civilization. Given this indicator, Britain is an abomination.

Comments (26)

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  1. Tom Ultuous says:

    They don’t even feel the need to hide their corruption any more. The tabloids will produce a picture of the woman who complained smoking and the outrage among the right (if there ever was any) will dissipate.

  2. Freda Satow says:

    This is an abomination! A Tory war against the poor…..and now poor children. Meanwhile pocketing millions of public money. We are ruled by criminals.

  3. chris ballance says:

    Mike – Query: is this an English story or a British one? What’s happening with free school meal vouchers in Scotland?

    1. DialMforMurdo says:

      It varies from one Local Authority to another with a mixture of funds being paid direct into parents bank accounts and vouchers sent by text message.

      1. chris ballance says:

        Thanks Murdo. So the first line should refer to Tory England, not Britain!

    2. Yes you’re right Chris, its an English one.

  4. Daniel Raphael says:

    What I have noticed for some time now, across a wide range of issues, is that there appear to be no consequences whatsoever for anything the UK government does. There is no internal monitor, no ombudsman, no independent actor, no legal recourse of any meaningful effect, to reign in–much less, punish–officials who flout the law, practice corruption, or ignore policies supposedly in effect. Am I mistaken in having this impression?

    1. Bill Low says:

      No – you got in One!!!


      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        The PPE issue particularly sticks in my throat. They were offered the opportunity to join the EU’s bulk buy PPE scheme just before the pandemic struck. Despite knowing they didn’t have enough PPE they refused so they could award the contracts to their pals (bitcoin pushbacks anybody?). Many people (including medical professionals) died as a result of that. IMO those people were murdered. I wrote to that good law project and suggested they find out how much the govt PPE contracts cost the taxpayer and how much the same amount of PPE would’ve cost through the EU’s bulk buy scheme. The difference will give some indication of the size of the pushbacks although the figure could reasonably be multiplied several times over given the rise in crypto in the last few months.

  5. Axel P Kulit says:

    ““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.””

    So they are trying to palm the blame off onto the government. Should we not be able to see theDofE Specifications for ourselves?

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      At PM’s questions Starmer read the government guidelines to Johnson. They pretty much agreed with the parcel’s contents.

  6. Mridu Thanki says:

    Since the pandemic the Tory government has blatantly filled the pockets of its cronies with public money. From the PPE fiasco and test and trace to food for children (which is only happening because of Marcus Rashford’s campaign), instead of delegating the work to the local authorities who have the know-how and expertise, with regards to their communities, the Government has opted for the private sector. The corruption and mismanagement here beats many of the poorer countries. The death rate per capita in the UK also wins over many of the not so developed nations. In the meantime the mainstream media only touches upon these issues instead of fully exposing this and challenging the Government. And us, the public, fume and fret over the matter in our homes. What a state of the nation!

    1. Bill Low says:

      Remember, this is what the people voted for. Bojo was a known liar, given to racist and homophobic comments, illegal activities and when he became Prime Minister, Get Brexit Done was his slogan that conned the voters. Will they vote them out next time? Have my doubts – that is why I want to see an independent Scotland.


      1. Axel P Kulit says:

        ” Bojo was a known liar, given to racist and homophobic comments, illegal activities”

        I regret I do not have the source to hand but I read that electorates tent to vote for people they see as like themselves.

  7. DialMforMurdo says:

    Glad to see Empty Kitchens Full Hearts at the centre of the solution. Their model could easily be rolled out through the entire country.

    The food is surplus, donated from suppliers, cooked by chefs who have been laid off or furloughed, packed by volunteers and distributed by volunteer drivers and bike riders. They’re providing over 1000 food packs a day in Edinburgh and will have hit 500,000 meals provided free of cost and judgement by the end of month.

    They’re currently based in the community owned Leith Theatre and at some point will need a new home. Obviously they’d rather be made redundant and get back to their own lives, however, as the Lockdown continues people in Scotland are going hungry. The Scottish government and local authorities have an enormous estate, with lots of professional kitchens sitting empty, catering staff on furlough and food suppliers loaded up with surplus food and little access to market. It only takes a little bit of political will to roll this model out across the country.

    1. and projects like Empty Kitchens Ful Hearts will have to be around as the economic carnage of coronavirus hits in the coming years. Mutual Aid, solidarity and community resilience projects will have to step up and in at scale.

      1. DialMforMurdo says:

        What I don’t get Mike is the Scottish government’s inability to engage. By all means have Edinburgh SNP councillors, Provost, MSP even MP turn up for a photo opp, but at least lobby the government to help either fund them, source a kitchen they can use or roll the model out across the country.

        Covid and Brexit fall out is going to be massive, a real step backwards. Maybe we’ll eventually reach a stage where charities with six figure CEO’s, entitled interns and poor (but expensive) track records in lifting folk out of destitution finally collapse.

  8. Richard Easson says:

    Certainly food for thought.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      Is that supposed to be funny? Cause it’s no. Children are going hungry, for fuck’s sake.

  9. SleepingDog says:

    Ha. If only our neo-imperial rulers thought a bit of reasonably fresh carrot appropriate for feeding animals. In reality, they surely plan on feeding them mushed up effluent from industrial farming waste, corpse-parts (to herbivores) and shit and all, and now we’re on the path to all-round deregulation and short-term profit-gouging they would probably be happy ramping up live cannibalism:

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      A very disturbing article Sleeping Dog and probably fairly widespread within the industry.

  10. John Mooney says:

    As has been said a long time ago the Tories really are vermin! I am in my seventh decade and I have seen disgusting things in my lifetime with regard to Tories but this is beyond the pale,and if any one dislikes my calling Tories vermin tough shit,by their actions you will know them, truly a crew of self serving Bastards!

    1. Bill Low says:

      Yes John, I have been taken to task in the past or using the Aneurin Bevan quote. However I thought that Bevan was generous “lower than vermin” I did not think that they were that good and currently the corrupt incompetents are proving me correct


      1. Axel P Kulit says:

        I find Tories the best evidence for David Icke’s theories

  11. Peter Hurrell says:

    Truly shameful. Excellent exposure by BC.

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