Footballer Marcus Rashford has formed a task force with some of the UK’s biggest food brands to try to help reduce child food poverty.
The 22-year-old Manchester United forward successfully campaigned to extend free school meals this summer.
He has spoken about his own experiences of using a food voucher scheme as a child and was praised for pressing the government into a U-turn on the issue. He has written to MPs, outlining the help he feels some families still need.
The group of supermarkets, businesses and charities – including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, FareShare, Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – have formed a task force and backed proposals from the National Food Strategy, an independent review of UK food policy. Mr Rashford said he was “confident” the group could help change lives “for the better”.’ We go hungry so we can feed our children’
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Mr Rashford is hoping that, with a bigger team of experts around him, he might be able to help more children.
“We wanted to do it the best way we could, introduce the best people into our group, and see if using them [we] can push it even more.”
The footballer met some of the families who benefited from the extended children’s food voucher scheme
The task force is calling for three policy recommendations by the National Food Strategy to be funded by the government as soon as possible:
Expanding free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged seven to 16
Expanding holiday food and activities to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1m children
Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25 per week and expanding it to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 children under the age of four and pregnant women
The taskforce says implementing the three recommendations would mark a “unifying step to identifying a long-term solution to child poverty in the UK”.
In his letter to MPs, Mr Rashford says he hopes the chancellor will find the funds to do so in his Budget and spending review “without delay”.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said he would be delighted to meet Mr Rashford, saying the footballer was “right to draw the nation’s attention” to the matter.
Members of the task force have also pledged to spend the next six weeks using their platforms to share stories of those affected by child food insecurity in the UK.
The footballer has met some of the families who have benefitted from the extended children’s food voucher scheme, which he said had been an “unbelievable experience”.
“Just to see the smiles on their faces and to see how much it’s helped them, you know, made me happy,” he said. “It was good to see the parents laughing and smiling.”
During the coronavirus lockdown, the government provided vouchers to families whose children qualify for free meals, but it had insisted this would not continue into the summer holidays.
This prompted the England squad footballer to write an open letter to MPs, drawing on his own experiences of relying on free school meals and food banks growing up in Wythenshawe, Manchester. He called on the government to reverse its decision – which it did shortly after he spoke out.
The U-turn enabled about 1.3m children in England to claim vouchers over the holidays, with the support working out as about £15 a week for each child.