The Compass Group boast of serving 5.5 billion meals a year, so you might think they would be good at it. Rather they walked into the most grotesque crisis of the pandemic with their subsidiary Chartwells: catchphrase ‘Eat, Learn, Live’. I might steal that. I am stockpiling one syllable words. When deputised to provide a week’s worth of school lunches to children eligible to receive free school meals, Chartwells sent food boxes so meagre that parents posted photographs of lonely carrots online. Perhaps the Compass Group was compensating for an operating profit of a mere half a billion pounds in 2020 when they are used to three times that. The cruelties of pandemic are so many!
The boxes were supposed to contain £30 worth of food. In one case it was as little as £5.30, though, incredibly, it looked like less. It looked like remnants of remnants, and food for pigs. But what, you might ask, are vulnerable children’s stomachs for, but to ease Compass towards a more comfortable margin? Chartwells, I must add before lawyers insist on it, did grovel via press release, free breakfasts, and tweets praising Marcus Rashford.
What is misery for some is opportunity for others: we have had, in that gruesome phrase, a national conversation about what £30 of food looks like. For Rick Stein it is half a lobster; for the Cereal Killer Café it is 7.5kg of Kellogg’s Frosties; for Berry Bros & Rudd it is two thirds of a bottle of Australian Three Oaks Chardonnay; for Morrisons supermarket it is a food box of ‘five meals to feed a family of four’, gaily marketed on the wings of Chartwells’s disgrace. This is competitive empathy from supermarkets. I can’t wait for them to get into mental health provision.