Rashford ‘can’t stop smiling’ after school meals petition passes 1m signatures

Marcus Rashford has said he “can’t stop smiling” as his petition to extend free meals into the school holidays passed one million signatures.

The Manchester United star’s mission to ensure no child goes hungry has gripped the nation and caused a major headache for the Government who have opposed funding his campaign.

Also referencing his side’s 5-0 win against RB Leipzig on Wednesday evening, during which he scored a hat-trick, Rashford wrote on Twitter: “3 goals, 16 minutes, 1,030,000 signatures.

“Can’t stop smiling, I’ve waited a long time for that. Just wish the fans were in to experience it with me.”

Dozens of councils in England – many of them Tory led – have taken matters into their own hands by paying for food out of their budgets, while hundreds of businesses have stepped up to help out.

Rashford has been using his social media platforms to highlight the efforts of local communities and calling on the public to sign his petition.

He tweeted on Monday: “Let’s take a second to remember that a lot of families in need will not have access to the internet. They can’t sign petitions or scroll down my twitter.

“Their voices cannot be heard so we have to use ours to communicate on all of this amazing local help. Thank you all.”

In response to the row, the Government has insisted it is in the process of examining how holiday clubs could be used to feed hungry children.

The Holiday Activity and Food Programme is the brainchild of Henry Dimbleby, the Government’s food tsar and co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, and was trialled across 17 local authorities over the summer.

It is too late to implement the scheme for half-term, which is either this week or next week for most schools, but may be in place by Christmas.

The Government has said it had made provisions for families living in food poverty through increases in Universal Credit.

Its decision to vote against a Labour motion on extending free schools meals that it funded over the summer – again following a campaign by Rashford – provoked an ugly backlash against MPs from many of their constituents.

Wolverhampton South West’s Conservative MP Stuart Anderson said on Monday his office had been attacked and his family had been threatened.

He claimed some fellow MPs were “afraid to go outside their house at the moment”.

Rashford has won high praise for his work raising the issue of child food poverty, and was recently awarded an MBE.