England international footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford has welcomed a UK government u-turn on addressing child food poverty.
He said, “There is still so much more to do, and my immediate concern is the approximate 1.7 million children who miss out on Free School Meals, holiday provision and Healthy Start vouchers because their family income isn’t quite low enough.”
Heaping praise on his supporters, he added, “I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of empathy and understanding.
“I am fully committed to this cause, and I will fight for the rest of my life for it, because in my mind, no child should ever go hungry in the United Kingdom. I don’t want any child to go through what I went through, and any parent to experience what my mother experienced.
“I now call on the Government to collaborate with the Child Food Poverty Taskforce to guarantee that no child does.
“Together we have demonstrated the power of kindness”
“I am so proud of ‘us’ as a collective. ‘Us’ being the local businesses, charity workers, volunteers, teachers, social workers, carers, and key workers. Together we have demonstrated the power of kindness and compassion.”
The government announcement includes:
- Christmas 2020 to Easter 2021: Welfare Assistance Grants to Local Authorities for eligible households helping with food and bills from 1st December 2020 until the end of March 2021. This covers the Christmas 2020 holidays (£170 million) and £16 million for food distribution charities for Christmas.
- Easter onwards: £220 million allocated to the Holiday Activity and Food Programme (HAF) for Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays in 2021 for all Local Authorities in England.
- The value of the Healthy Start voucher increased from £3.10 to £4.25 from April 2021.
Rashford has been engaged in the issue via the food re-distribution charity FareShare, which currently provides over two million meals for vulnerable people each week via its network.
Rashford’s campaign began in June, after the government said it would not provide support over summer holidays for the 1.3 million children in England who were receiving free school meals in term time.
In the latest campaign twist, the government had refused to provide support through the one-week October half-term, requiring (whipping) Conservative MPs to vote against a Labour motion to do so.
Local authorities of all political persuasion, including the Prime Minister’s own constituency, then rebelled by continuing to offer free school meals with the help of local businesses and charities.