Marcus Rashford: ‘Look at what we can do when we come together’

Man United forward’s campaign to extend children’s food voucher scheme is a success

Marcus Rashford’s campaign to force the UK Government into a U-turn on the decision not to provide vulnerable children with school meals during the summer holidays has been successful. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Marcus Rashford’s campaign to force the UK Government into a U-turn on the decision not to provide vulnerable children with school meals during the summer holidays has been successful. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

 

Marcus Rashford said “look at what we can do when we come together” after his campaign to extend the children’s food voucher scheme into the summer holidays led to a Government U-turn.

Rashford wrote an open letter to MPs this week urging the Government to reverse its decision not to award free school meals vouchers in England — for which nearly 1.3 million children are eligible — outside of term time.

The Manchester United and England forward followed that up with an impassioned article in The Times (UK) on Tuesday, detailing his experience of growing up using food banks and receiving free meals as a child.

And the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Owing to the coronavirus pandemic the Prime Minister fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer.

“To reflect this we will be providing a Covid Summer Food Fund. This will provide food vouchers covering the six-week holiday period. This is a specific measure to reflect the unique circumstances of the pandemic.

“The scheme will not continue beyond the summer and those eligible will be those who already qualify for free school meals.”

Reacting to the news, Rashford wrote on Twitter: “I don’t even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.”

The cost will come to £120 million in additional funding, Downing Street said.

Referring to Rashford, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson added: “The PM welcomes his contribution to the debate around poverty and respects the fact that he has been using his profile as a leading sportsman to highlight important issues.”

Former England striker Gary Lineker responded to Rashford’s successful campaign by tweeting “Well played. Marcus. Well played.”

Rashford, who has raised £20million to boost food distribution with the charity FareShare, has garnered significant media interest with his campaign.

He wrote in The Times: “Today I focus on a trophy that stands for something much bigger than football.

“A U-turn on the decision to stop the free food voucher scheme continuing over the summer holidays could help us reach the next round but we still have a very long way to go as a country to eventually lift the trophy.

“In this case, the trophy is combating child poverty.

“I don’t claim to have the education of an MP in parliament, but I do have a social education. I am clued up on the difference a U-turn decision would make on the 1.3 million vulnerable children across the UK who are registered for free school meals because 10 years ago I was one of them.”

Rashford then added on Twitter: “When you wake up this morning and run your shower, take a second to think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey responded: “Water cannot be disconnected though.”

The Minister was widely criticised and Rashford replied: “I’m concerned this is the only tweet of mine you acknowledged. Please, put rivalries aside for a second, and make a difference.”

The campaign received a further push on Monday night when Lineker asked the Government to consider the struggles of impoverished families during the coronavirus crisis.

“Obviously these are strange times. Kids wouldn’t ordinarily be fed during the summer holidays, I understand that. But you’ve got to look at it and go ‘These are very, very difficult times for a lot of people and a lot of families’,” the Match of the Day presenter said on BBC Newsnight.

“There are a lot of young people, young children, in this country that are going hungry. And in a country like ours, a country of quite substantial wealth, that seems to be largely unacceptable.

“Hopefully the powers that be will listen. It seems strange that we have to be in a position where we are desperately arguing to try to get young people fed, and stop them being hungry.”

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