First coronavirus food parcels for most vulnerable leave a bad taste in the mouth

Date published: 30 March 2020

The council is taking steps to improve the quality of the government food parcels for people most at risk from coronavirus after the first batch arrived in the borough. 

The food boxes are for people who are being shielded from coronavirus and cannot leave their homes because severe health conditions leave them most vulnerable to the virus.

The government said the packages would contain essential food and household items such as pasta, fruit, tinned goods and biscuits, for those who need to self-isolate at home for 12 weeks but have no support network of family or friends to help them.

The parcels that arrived in the borough of Rochdale on Monday 30 March, however, contained tea bags, cordial, one apple, chocolate bars, dry noodles and gingerbread biscuits. There were also only 44 delivered to Rochdale Council, despite there being 129 people in the borough who are being shielded and have requested an emergency parcel. In other parts of the country the parcels have included ready meals and more nutritionally-balanced items.

To improve the quality of the parcels the council is adding extra items, including bread, milk and a selection of tinned meat and fruit. The council is currently contacting each of these shielded residents on the list to ask if they need additional help and support.

After seeing the parcels council leader Allen Brett is calling on the government to do more to improve the quality of what is being provided. He said: “Everyone appreciates that this is an unprecedented situation but the parcels that have been provided were not of the quality we were expecting. Thankfully our council officers are able to source food locally and add them to the packs to ensure that those receiving them have a better choice of items.

“It’s not clear to me why people in some parts of the country are getting pre-prepared meals and our citizens are getting tea bags, biscuits and cordial. We were also 83 parcels short so we’ve had to create those ourselves, which we are doing. The people receiving these parcels are likely to be alone and quite possibly afraid so there must be a greater effort to provide them with everything they need to get through this. We are doing all that we can, I expect government to do the same.”

A government spokesperson said: “This picture is misleading, it is not one of the food boxes we are delivering directly to the homes of extremely medically vulnerable people.

“Our food boxes are of a standard that is consistent and include cereal, fruit and vegetables and pasta. As much as possible, this is a package that is universally suitable, and will provide enough food for one person for one week.

“Councils have been issued with some additional supplies to help kickstart their wider efforts – but these should not be confused for a food box.”

Food parcels are being issued by the council and staff are working to protect the most vulnerable. The council is already delivering much needed food parcels to other vulnerable and isolated residents who have requested assistance through the helpline. Four hubs have been set up in each part of the borough, along with a dedicated phone line for anyone who needs support - 01706 923685.

Information about the support available from the council and details of changes to our services can be found at: 

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