England footballer Marcus Rashford and his food poverty taskforce have launched a website to support children and vulnerable families over the Christmas holiday period.
The site, endchildfoodpoverty.org, includes a map that allows people to find help in their local area, as well as information on how people can donate and volunteer this winter.
Food banks, schools, charities, local councils and other organisations who are offering food support to families over the holidays have been urged to sign up.
In a statement, Rashford said: “Following the government investment, it was important to me that we supported by communicating on the help available in local areas, working closely with local authorities, so that our vulnerable families know where to turn when faced with the toughest winter on record.
“In partnership with Co-op and Google, we have developed a central hub for those who need help and those who want to help. That second function was really important to me – everyone has a role to play in ending child food poverty in the UK and we wanted to support those who want to make a difference.
“There is still so much more to be done but the least children deserve this year, after loss and disruption, is a Christmas dinner on the table.”
The website launch comes as Independent Food Banks have reported a 62% increase in emergency food parcel distribution in October compared to the same month last year.
Tyler, 15, from Blackburn, described how “stressful” the Christmas period can be for children whose families are struggling.
“My friends who have free school meals during term time already face being bullied about it, but at least they get the meal they need,” he said. “But during the holidays, when we hang out together, they are clearly ashamed that they don’t have enough money to buy basics, like a drink or a bite to eat.
“This can really divide kids and make those that go without feel excluded. The holidays, which we are meant to look forward to, are instead just really stressful.”
The website’s release coincides with a new BBC documentary which has been following Rashford’s campaigning efforts to tackle child food poverty.
The footballer was made an MBE this year for his campaign work to provide free school meals to disadvantaged children during the holidays.
His petition for pupils in disadvantaged families to have their meals paid for during the holidays went on to attract more than one million signatures – mass backing which piled pressure on Downing Street to commit to more support.
Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation said: “For so many families, this Christmas will be extremely precarious as the ongoing financial pressures of Covid-19 push struggling households further into hardship and force a newly vulnerable segment of society to seek help for the first time.
“The new #endchildfoodpoverty website will be a vital resource for these families, making sure that those struggling to put food on the table can connect rapidly with local provision.”