The cook and campaigner barely slept last week as the row raged over inadequate food parcels for kids. She discusses austerity, cronyism and why she’ll never stop fighting
I speak to Jack Monroe, cook, author and campaigner, towards the end of a tumultuous week in food poverty. On Monday, a Twitter user, @roadsidemum, posted a photo of a “hamper” she said was intended to replace her child’s free school lunches for two weeks. The provider, Chartwells, claimed it covered one week and was funded at £10.50. The contents wouldn’t have cost you £6 in any supermarket. Parents all over the country shared similar photos, food nothing short of contemptuous: half a red pepper, a quarter of an onion. What kind of company would employ someone to make sure no family gets too much onion? Monroe has been sent similar photos since March – the packages sent to shielding people, outsourced by the government to other companies, were similarly unimpressive, though “they got a couple of tins of pork as well. Every time I tried to make a noise about it, it was just like shouting in the wind.”
This time, the mood had changed; there was just so much about it that was repulsive – the idea that Chartwells, part of the giant catering corporation Compass, would skim profit off food meant for a child; the cronyism of how it got the contract in the first place (former Chartwells chairman Paul Walsh is a prominent Tory supporter who donated £10,000 to the party in 2010); the lobbying that led to the policy of hampers rather than vouchers, against the advice of child-poverty groups; the fact that such an incompetent government has the gall not to trust parents with money to feed their own children.