Manchester

Coronavirus: Rochdale Council tops up 'unhealthy' food boxes

Contents of food parcel Image copyright Rochdale Council
Image caption Rochdale Council published a photo of the "inadequate" contents of the food boxes it received

A council has said it had to top up "unhealthy" government food supplies for people most at risk from Covid-19.

Rochdale Council said the first delivery, received on Monday, consisted of chocolate bars, biscuits, cordial, teabags, noodles and an apple.

Council leader Allen Brett has called on the government to improve them and claimed other areas are getting "more nutritionally balanced" ones.

The government said the boxes were to supplement councils' provisions.

Image caption Allen Brett said some parts of the country are getting "more nutritionally balanced" food parcels

The government aims to distribute free food parcels every week to more than 50,000 people at high risk of coronavirus who have no family or friends to help them.

In Rochdale, Greater Manchester, a total of 129 people requested emergency food parcels but when the initial delivery was made it was 85 boxes short, the council said.

The parcels' contents were described as "unhealthy" and "inadequate" by a spokesman for the Labour-controlled authority.

Mr Brett said the council had to add products such as bread, milk and fruit to parcels to provide a "better choice of items" and made up the shortfall in parcels itself.

In contrast, food boxes delivered to homes in Bristol contained a much greater variety of products including fruit, vegetables, bread, milk rice, pasta and tins of soup.

Image caption Food parcels delivered in Bristol contained vegetables, bread, rice, pasta and tins of soup

"Everyone appreciates this is an unprecedented situation but the parcels provided were not of the quality we were expecting," Mr Brett said.

"It's not clear... why people in some parts of the country are getting pre-prepared meals and our citizens are getting tea bags, biscuits and cordial.

"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.

"I just want to make sure residents in Rochdale are getting what they are entitled to," Mr Brett added.

'Misleading'

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said its boxes are of a consistent standard and include cereal, fruit and vegetables and pasta with enough food for one person for a week.

It added that the council-released photo was "misleading" and not a food box for vulnerable people.

Defra said the items were additional supplies for councils to "kickstart wider efforts but these should not be confused for a food box".

In response, Rochdale Council said it did not recognise the packages were additional supplies as "they were linked directly to our shielded residents".

"While we are pleased to hear... packages sent directly to homes were of a higher standard, we also note other councils have expressed concerns about the quality of the initial packages they received from government."

The first 4,000 food parcels were delivered at the weekend.

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