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Footballer keeps up pressure on MPs for free school meals

Written by: Emma Lunn
The England striker’s campaign is “not over yet” after Boris Johnson rejected his plea for free school meals over the summer.

Footballer Marcus Rashford has vowed not to give up after the Prime Minister refused to reconsider the government’s decision not to extend the free school meals voucher system during the summer.

The Manchester United and England player wrote an open letter to MPs yesterday, asking them to extend the voucher system during the summer holidays.

He followed up his plea with an appearance on BBC News talking about his own experiences of child poverty and writing an article for The Times.

In The Times article, he said: “I don’t claim to have the education of an MP in parliament, but I do have a social education. I am clued up on the difference a U-turn decision would make on the 1.3 million vulnerable children across the UK who are registered for free school meals because 10 years ago I was one of them.”

Rashford was also trending on Twitter after posting a series of Tweets imploring people to think about those less fortunate than themselves using the hashtag #maketheuturn.

The footballer received backing from the Co-op which is extending its free school meals scheme throughout the summer at its 25 Co-op Academies – giving 6,000 students who normally receive free school meals Co-op gift cards.

Rashford also received the support of the Labour Party with the party announcing it will use an opposition day debate in Parliament today to call on the Government to continue to directly fund provision of free school meals over the summer holidays.

Speaking in the opposition day debate, Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Shadow Education Secretary will say: “Any government that is willing to let the poorest children in the country go hungry needs to take a long hard look at its priorities. Shamefully, children go hungry every year, but this summer will be especially difficult for many families as job losses and reduced incomes hit household budgets.

“It would be deeply callous of the government not to take this small step to ease the financial pressure on households and ensure children can eat during the summer holidays.’’

Nearly 1.3 million children in England are eligible for free school meals. During the Covid-19 pandemic a voucher scheme to provide food support to children at home was established instead which, after pressure, was extended to cover the May half-term.

However, the government has confirmed it will not continue the voucher scheme or fund free school meals over the summer holidays.

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