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More than 200,000 sign petition calling for free school meal extension

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Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford's petition to end child food poverty by extending the free school meals scheme to families in receipt of Universal Credit has received more than 200,000 signatures.

The footballer, who was recently awarded an MBE for his campaign which saw the government U-turn on its decision in England to provide free school meals over the summer holidays, is now calling for further provision.

The 22-year-old who received free school meals and used food banks as a child, launched a petition just two days ago calling for the government to implement three recommendations to expand access to the scheme to stop ‘holiday hunger’.

So far, more than 200,000 people have signed the petition. When a petition on the government site reaches 10,000 signatures, the department will need to respond. Once it reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the Commons.

The petition states that while Covid-19 has been tough on everyone, the government should ensure children don’t pay the price.

Along with the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, Rashford is calling on the government to:

  • Allocate money to expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or an equivalent benefit (currently UC claimants are eligible for free school meals if their household income is less than £7,400 a year)
  • Provide meals and activities during all holidays
  • Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week (from £3.10) and expand the scheme.

It comes after 14% of parents and 10% of children have experienced food insecurity over the last six months; a third of families have lost income as a result of Covid-19 and demand for food banks this winter is predicted to be 61% higher than last.

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