VOLUNTEERS behind a Ramsbottom food bank have criticised the contents of some free school meal parcels after images showing meagre portions were shared on social media.

Downing Street has said the parcels sent to families are "completely unacceptable" and that the Government is urgently looking into the issue.

It came as the Government faced calls to urgently roll out its national free school meal voucher scheme after the images shared on social media showed poor quality and low value packages sent to families during the lockdown.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "We're aware of those images circulating on social media, and it is clear that the contents of those food parcels are completely unacceptable.

"The Department for Education is looking into this urgently and the minister for children, Vicky Ford, is speaking to the company responsible and they will be making it clear that boxes like this should not be given to families."

"Unfortunately it's not surprising is it?" said Joe Bramwell, who volunteers with the Ramsbottom Pantry which operates from Christ Church in Great Eaves Road and Ramsbottom Cricket Club in Acre Bottom.

"It was pretty upsetting to see that's how people who need the most help in society are being looked upon."

While the Ramsbottom area is often thought of as quite affluent, many poorer families live there and have been struggling with the affects of the coronavirus pandemic prompting Joe and other volunteers, led by his mum Beverly Bramwell, to do what they can.

"When you see the levels of donations the Pantry has received over the last four or five weeks and the effort all the volunteers go to to ensure families receive help and then you compare it to what is being issued by the Government it just isn't comparable," said Joe.

Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford - who has been behind a drive to get free school meals to children who need them - has called for the system to be fixed "quickly".

One tweet showed a package, supposedly containing £30 worth of food to last for 10 days, comprising just a loaf of bread, some cheese, a tin of beans, two carrots, two bananas, three apples, two potatoes, a bag of pasta, three Frubes, two Soreen bars and a tomato.

It later emerged that Chartwells, which was identified on social media as the supplier of one meagre food parcel, is a member of the footballer’s child food poverty taskforce. Chartwells was also summoned to talks with the Department for Education after photos of food parcels went viral on social media.

"It shouldn't need a public figure to do this," added Joe. "It's taking the public's embarrassment to spearhead any major action.

"What we have found with the Pantry is there is no such thing as the 'average' person who needs help - that pandemic has thrown an absolute curve ball at everybody in every way possible.

"It's people who have been furloughed or people who work in hospitality who have not been able to work all year and the fact that the people who should be helping the most are issuing that shows what an uphill battle is."

The pantry currently uses rooms within Christ Church & Ramsbottom CC. Times below:

Christ Church, Great Eaves Rd, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 0PX

Tuesday and Thursday 12:00 - 16:00

Ramsbottom CC, Acre Bottom, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 0BS

Wednesday 17:00 - 20:00

Saturday 09:00 - 12:00

These locations are used for drop offs of donations from the community and local businesses, food packs are put together here and collected/distributed to those in need. The pantry is currently looking for a fixed location as the two rooms are only available due to the current pandemic. If you can help please email: ramsbottompantry@gmail.com