Food businesses and supermarkets have joined England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford in his campaign against child poverty in the UK.
Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose have joined Rashford’s new taskforce, together with Food Foundation and FareShare. The footballer brought the group together in support of the National Food Strategy’s key government proposals on child food poverty.
The 22-year-old forward, said, “The time for action is now. I’m proud and I’m humbled to see such a reaction and commitment from the food industry, and I am confident that together we can help change the lives of those most at risk, for the better.”
Marcus Rashford is pushing for the government to adopt three key proposals in the National Food Strategy, namely:
- Expanding free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5 million children aged seven to 16.
- Expanding an existing school holiday food and activities programme to support all children on free school meals in all areas of England, instead of the current 50,000 children who are helped.
- Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers – which help parents with children under the age of four and pregnant women buy some basic foods – from £3.10 to £4.25 per week, and expanding it to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 people.
He first took on the UK government in June, convincing it to make a U turn on a decision against providing food vouchers for children during school holidays. Rashford’s intervention allowed 1.3 million children in England to claim vouchers over the summer holidays, worth about £15 a week each child.
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The footballer said, “I’m thrilled that such influential voices have put any allegiance aside to join me on my mission to move the conversation of child food insecurity forward. 4.2 million children are currently living in poverty in the UK and this is expected to rise. [We] stand in solidarity to offer these vulnerable children the platform they need to have their voices heard. I encourage everyone to stop and listen.”
The National Food Strategy’s leader Henry Dimbleby told the BBC, “It’s increasingly clear that long after the coronavirus passes we will feel its presence… in the bodies and prospects of our most vulnerable children. These three measures that Marcus has put his weight behind are an attempt to make sure the government does everything it can to improve the prospects of the most vulnerable in society, by ensuring that, at a minimum, they get access to nutritious food.”
The Co-op’s Food CEO, Jo Whitfield said, “It’s heart-breaking to think of children in the UK going hungry and we are determined to do everything we can to support those who are most vulnerable in the communities we serve.
“We’ve worked with Marcus before and seen the amazing dedication he gives to the serious issue of food insecurity. We’re delighted to be able to join Marcus and the other taskforce members for this important campaign where a little co-operation by many can make a big difference to support those who are struggling. We’re focused and unwavering in our support to co-operate and to get food to those in our communities who are most in need.”