Mum blasts free school meal box for daughter, 10, full of food she’s allergic to

A mum has blasted a free school meal box for her 10-year-old daughter which arrived with food and drink she is allergic to.

Sasha Peggs said her coeliac and dairy intolerant Mila, was delivered cheese, cow’s milk, pasta and pita bread – as well as a couple of mould-ridden onions.

The 49-year-old said she is concerned kids’ allergies aren’t being taken seriously.

Sasha explained before the box was sent out she filled in a dietary requirements form explaining Mila’s allergies and that they had previously received boxes from the school containing safe alternatives like soya milk and gluten free pasta.

The mum-of-three also said during term time, staff at Mila’s school specially cook gluten and dairy-free meals for her.

Sasha, a holistic beauty therapist, hit out at Pink Orange the company who organised the boxes.

She said: “I’m not worried about having more food. I just don’t want them to accidentally kill someone.

“You can get anaphylaxis from cow’s milk… people don’t realise that.

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“And that’s what makes me quite angry.”

Sasha added: “And blimey, it takes an onion forever to get like that – it must have got wet or something.”

Sasha only realised she qualified for free school meals recently, when she struggled to make profits from her beauty business after it closed during lockdown.

And while Mila, who is allergic to gluten and dairy, used to make-do with homemade sandwiches – as a business owner who usually works six days a week school dinners were a godsend.

During the Easter holidays instead of serving the free school dinners from the canteen, a third-party company was called in to send the equivalent foods straight to pupil’s homes.

But when the box arrived at the mum and daughter’s Bury St Edmund’s home, Suffolk, Sasha immediately spotted butter and cheese and told the delivery driver there had been a mistake,and to take it back.

She said: “When they delivered it they had butter and cheese in a bag on top of the box.

“So when the delivery lady got back to the van, I said ‘Oh, it must be a mistake, because you’ve given us this and we need gluten and dairy free.’

“And she sort of said ‘Oh, the rest of the box is just tins’ and she wasn’t that bothered.

“So I opened it and then inside was pasta, pitta bread, and UHT cow’s milk” – all food that could make Mila extremely unwell.

Sasha sent photos of the unsuitable food to her son Adam, who tweeted: “From my little sister’s free school meals hamper for Easter.

“They’ve also sent her food she’s allergic to, so there’s a total of six items she can’t have at all. Appalling.”

In a follow-up tweet Adam wrote: “A few people have replied suggesting this is broadly fine and you shouldn’t waste food.

“First, she’s a coeliac and there’s five items she’s allergic to (a big proportion of what she’s been given).

“Second, the onion wasn’t even thrown away. Thing is working class kids deserve better.”

Adam’s tweet was liked more than 700 times, and retweeted by more than 400 users.

After receiving the box, Sasha also complained to Pink Orange, who hand delivered an appropriate box four days later – due to delays over the Easter weekend – and profusely apologised for the mistake.

But when the beauty therapist quizzed the company on why the box wasn’t clearly labelled to show Mila needed special foods, she was told some families find getting free school meals “embarrassing” and that there is a “stigma” attached to it.

She said: “I thought afterwards, this is weird because all my posts have my name on it.

“I was told they were a charity, and they’re all volunteers. I thought ‘Oh that is lovely, but you still need to know what kids can and can’t eat’.”

Sasha also noticed a distinct lack of vegetables in some of the free school meal boxes she has been sent, with most containing just a few carrots, potatoes and onions.

She said: “We’ve got a lot of pasta, a lot of rice, a lot of oats but I still have to [top up at the supermarket] because there are not fresh fruit and vegetables, and they don’t tend to bring anything green.

“I think I had carrots in the first box. But we’d be buying spinach and broccoli and stuff like that [to supplement it].”

And it’s not the first time Sasha had an issue with the free meals, after receiving one of the pitiful packages highlighted by Marcus Rashford last year Sasha posted snaps of the offering on Facebook.

“I had one from the school that was similar to [the one Marcus shared] and I shared it on Facebook.

“All my friends were like ‘what the hell!’ I was like, ‘it’s fine, I’ll still use it.’

“Then someone I barely know who works at Marks and Spencer said ‘can I bring you some food round’? And she did a whole food shop for me! I was like ‘wow, thank you’.”

Despite the mistake, however Sasha explained luckily the family are all keen cooks, and have plenty of food in for Mila.

They also donated the milk, pasta and bread to neighbours.

She said: “I’ve got basmati rice coming out of my ears.”

But the mum shared worries that had the box been delivered to someone else with less in their cupboards, kids could be left with nothing to eat.

She said: “I don’t think she’s the only one at school who has things she can’t eat.”

A spokeswoman for Pink Orange told the Mirror: “This truly was an isolated miss-picked incident (out of 15k deliveries across Suffolk over the Easter school holidays), which we have taken extremely seriously.

“We as standard offer at least 10+ alternative allergy/dietary ingredients kits alongside an ‘others’ comment box.

“We rectified this genuine mistake swiftly by hand delivering the correct dietary ingredients box the next business day, to ensure provision was rapidly met for the child in question.

“This was personally accepted by Ms. Peggs, along with our deepest apologies.”