Marcus Rashford to Continue Child Poverty Fight Despite Government School Meal Rejection

Marcus Rashford intends to combat child poverty in England
Marcus Rashford intends to combat child poverty in England / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford is determined to keep fighting after the UK government confirmed it would not extend a programme to provide free school meals to children in struggling families into the summer holidays.

Rashford wrote an open letter to ‘all MPs in parliament’ on Sunday night, urging the government to reverse its decision that serves as a lifeline to feed children growing up in poverty.

The 22-year-old explained that an estimated 200,000 children, enough to fill Wembley Stadium more than twice over, have had to skip a meal during the coronavirus crisis because families have been unable to access enough food.

Rashford has already helped raise around £20m in tandem with food distribution charity FareShare. But his pleas to the government on extending free school meals have been rejected, despite prime minister Boris Johnson acknowledging the player had highlighted ‘very important issues’.

Rashford refuses to give up, taking to Twitter and writing, “We aren’t beaten yet, stand strong for the 200,000 children who haven’t had a meal to eat today and keep retweeting.”

On Tuesday morning, he further posted, “We are trending no 1 and 2 in England. I need everyone’s help to keep this noise going as I head to training but before I go, to ALL MPs in Parliament, this is not about politics. The same way us players put rivalry aside when we put the England shirt on, please #maketheuturn.”

Rashford has also been given a platform with a column in The Times on Tuesday, seeking to drive home the point that ‘ending child poverty is a bigger trophy than any in football’.

“Today I focus on a trophy that stands for something much bigger than football,” he wrote.

“A U-turn on the decision to stop the free food voucher scheme continuing over the summer holidays could help us reach the next round but we still have a very long way to go as a country to eventually lift the trophy. In this case, the trophy is combating child poverty.”

“When you head to the fridge to grab the milk, stop and recognise that parents of at least 200,000 children across the country are waking up to empty shelves and the innocent question ‘why?’.

“Today nine out of thirty children in any given classroom are asking why. Why does their future not matter? This is the devastating reality of child poverty in England in 2020. This is a pandemic that will last generations if we don’t change our thinking now.”

While refusing to extend the free school meals scheme into summer, the Department of Education is hoping that a £63m local authority welfare assistance scheme will support the most vulnerable families through a holiday activities and food programme.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!