The free meals program was offered to students from households receiving government benefits, including those earning less than 7,400 pounds a year after tax.
But families earning above that threshold also struggle to put food on the table, said Ms. Dalmeny.
“There is a political deep prejudice among our government against giving people money — even in a pandemic,” she added. “Unfortunately it’s the kids who end up suffering.”
The incident was part of a pattern of private companies being given government contracts scrimping on quality to maximize profits, according to The Good Law Project, a governance watchdog. Mr. Johnson’s government has awarded billions of dollars worth of pandemic-related contracts to companies with political connections, no relevant experience and histories of controversy, often fast-tracking them ahead of competitors.
“There is a culture of central government just not being interested in delivering high-quality services to the population,” said Jolyon Maugham, the group’s director, adding that the country needed more ways to seek accountability and transparency.
About 1.4 million children claimed free school meals in the 2019-2020 school year, according to government figures.
Of the photographs, Ms. Dalmeny said they went viral because they spoke to people’s hearts. “If you imagine feeding a child on that, week after week.”