Number 10 rejects calls from Rashford to provide meals during school holidays

Number 10 has rejected calls from Marcus Rashford to provide free school meals to children during all school holidays to end food poverty.

It comes after the Manchester United and England striker launched a petition urging the Government to go further in tackling child hunger.

The petition – which has been signed by more than 75,000 people – calls for food to be provided during all holidays and it says free school meals should be expanded to all households on Universal Credit.

The Welsh Government has decided to provide free school meals during the school holidays until Easter next year.

But Downing Street indicated on Thursday that ministers would not provide free school meals to children in England during the Christmas break.

A No 10 spokesman said: "We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic when schools were partially closed during lockdown. We're in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils.

"It's not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays.

"We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than Government subsidising meals."

Rashford, who forced a Government U-turn on free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils over the summer holidays, has hit back at the comments.

The footballer, who has just been made an MBE for his services to vulnerable children, said: "Merry Christmas kids...

"It's also not for food banks to feed millions of British children but here we are. 250% increase in food poverty and rising...

"This is not going away anytime soon and neither am I..."

Senior Tory MP Rob Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, said on Twitter: "This is very disappointing from @BorisJohnson @10DowningStreet.

"We need a long-term plan to combat child food hunger, especially given 32% of families have had a drop in income since March."