By Grahame Anderson

Shielding and vulnerable people including Muslims and Jews have been receiving one size fits all Government food parcels thought to be culturally insensitive.

The packs have contained things like Fray Bentos meatballs, bacon soup, lentils, tinned meat pies and pork related products, regardless of the individual’s background. Some boxes have contained up to five tins of meat related products regardless of whether the receiver is vegan or vegetarian.

UK Wide Scheme

The scheme has seen Government team up with the food industry and local councils to deliver a programme on a scale not seen since the Second World War.

Each delivered package contains a letter from the Government saying: “We know asking you to stay at home during this period is a really difficult request.

“But we hope you recognise that it is necessary to protect your health, to reduce the pressure on the NHS and to save lives.

“This package should provide you with sufficient food and household essentials for one week.”

However, it adds: “Because of the scale of the operation everyone is receiving the same contents in their box and not all food may be suitable for you.

“Please check the contents of the package carefully if you have any medical or religious dietary requirements.

“Do not eat any food items you are unsure about.”

Individuals have been asked to contact their local council if too many of the items are unsuitable or if the food is not enough for one week. Those not requiring continued use of the weekly parcels were asked to inform the delivery driver.

Wasted Food

The accusation pointed at the Government seems to be those people who eat halal and kosher get less care than those who don’t. As the shielding can’t deliver any spare food to foodbanks, it seems a lot of food has been going to waste. We haven’t found any evidence spare food has been delivered back to the local council in Bradford.

One food bank in the city told Asian Sunday they haven’t received any food surplus to requirements emanating from Government food packages or from the council. They did point out all of their own parcels were packed according to requirements so Muslims for example, got the correct foodstuffs. A large delivery of Halal meat had just reached them, and they recognised the need to show sensitivity especially during the current crisis.

More than 3m food boxes have been delivered so far by Brakes and Bidfood across the UK as part of the individual £104m private contracts.

MP’s Concern

In a letter to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, MP for Bradford East. Imran Hussain cited: “I want to be clear that this is unacceptable and deeply insensitive to our religious communities.

“The inclusion of these products is also not just culturally and morally insensitive, forcing some in the most vulnerable positions to choose between compromising religious or other sincerely held beliefs and eating, but yet another display of the structural and institutionalised racism in our society – where the views of minorities are either not considered at all or regarded as not significant enough to warrant intervention.”

One Size Fits All

Asian Sunday Contacted Bidfoods who confirmed it was a one size fits all approach.

The boxes also contain:

Tinned vegetables – as well as tinned tomatoes – tinned fruit, multipacks of soup and baked beans, and a jar of cooking sauce. Other tins will contain meat and tuna.

Pasta, rice or noodles or cous cous, potatoes and cereal.

Bread and fresh fruit.

Coffee, tea and biscuits.

Toilet paper and shower gel.

Mr Hussain added: “My most vulnerable constituents were having to choose between eating and their religious or ethical beliefs.

Alternative Deliveries

Labour MP for Bradford West Naz Shah, told us: “The Government have failed on their coronavirus policies so this problem with the food parcel scheme hasn’t surprised me.

“I’ve been volunteering for a trust in Bradford to deliver food packages on some Saturdays – so it’s been great to get out and about and see people in my constituency during a really difficult time.

“We’ve been sourcing the right foodstuffs so everyone gets food that’s right for their needs and religious backgrounds. It’s so important to look after the vulnerable and shielding.

“I don’t know of any spare food from Government food packages reaching local food banks.”

Bradford Moor Pass

Asian Sunday did learn Bradford Moor Pass had collected more than 40 meat tins in a single day. They told us people didn’t want to appear ungrateful but also did not want the items to be wasted.

PASS was established in 2007 by a group of local professionals, with the aim of mobilising the community in one of the most nationally deprived wards to create social and economic change.

The Government food boxes have been delivered to people considered “extremely clinically vulnerable” due to underlying health conditions. It involves those who can’t leave their home and can’t get help from family or friends.