Marcus Rashford Leads New Campaign To Tackle 'Devastating' Child Food Poverty

Footballer who forced U-turn on food voucher scheme announces food insecurity taskforce to pressure government.

Footballer Marcus Rashford has urged MPs to back his new campaign to tackle child poverty in the UK, as he warned a lack of access to food will have “devastating effects on the stability of our country”.

The England and Manchester United star was credited as playing a key part in forcing the government to U-turn in June on its decision not to extend the children’s food voucher scheme into the summer holidays.

Rashford, 22, has now teamed up with the food industry to shed light on the issue of child food poverty in the UK.

Along with Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, FareShare, Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, he has formed the Child Food Poverty Task Force.

In a letter to all MPs, the sportsman explains how extending the food voucher scheme impacted millions of children’s lives, and how parents “cried with sheer relief that putting food on their children’s plates was one less thing to worry about this summer”. But he warned this was only a short-term fix and school closures, redundancies and furloughs have added to the crisis.

Rashford said the task force is endorsing three national food strategy policy recommendations and said the objective is to “see sufficient funds from the Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review allocated to implementing these without delay”.

The first one is the expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5million seven-16-year-olds.

The second one is the expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1million children.

And the third one is increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week (from £3.10) and expanding into all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under the age of four.

“I spoke to a mother recently who, along with her two young sons, is currently living off three slices of bread a day – soaking them in hot water and adding sugar, hoping that the porridge consistency might better sustain
the hunger of her one-year old child,” Rashford writes.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford has launched a new campaign to tackle child poverty in the UK.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford has launched a new campaign to tackle child poverty in the UK.

He also recounts meeting a nine-year-old boy who felt as if he “has to step up to protect his family” as his mother sobbed alongside him.

“I know that feeling,” Rashford said. “I remember the sound of my mum crying herself to sleep to this day, having worked a 14-hour shift, unsure how she was going to make ends meet.

“That was my reality and thankfully I had the talent to kick a ball around to pull us all out of that situation.

“Many can’t find that way out and aren’t being offered a helping hand to do so.”

In his letter, Rashford also writes: “When we pause, listen and reflect on what the future of our next generation could potentially look like, it’s easy to see that if we don’t take action quickly, the issue of child food poverty will have devastating effects on the stability of our country.

“These children are the future – our next generation of NHS workers, police officers, footballers and politicians.”

Over the next six weeks, the task force members will dedicate their platforms to sharing stories of those most affected by child food insecurity in the UK.


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