Marcus Rashford pleads for government rethink on free school meal vouchers
Marcus Rashford has pleaded with the government to reconsider its decision not to extend the current food voucher scheme in an open letter “written from the heart”.
The 22-year-old Manchester United and England striker urged the authorities to make a U-turn and allow vulnerable children who have been getting free meals during the coronavirus lockdown to continue receiving them in the summer holidays.
Rashford, who has raised £20million to boost food distribution with the charity FareShare, has admitted to using food banks and receiving free meals as a child.
He wants to help the families that need it the most, knowing how it felt to go hungry.
“It’s written from the heart and it’s about how my life was at the moment – the letter is to open up and let people understand the impact on families and to know I’ve done the right thing,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“What families are going through now, I’ve once had to go through that – and it’s very difficult to find a way out. It’s very important for me to help people who are struggling. Whether the outcome changes or doesn’t change – that’s why I wrote it.
“In the past I have done a lot of work to do with children. When I heard about the schools shutting down that obviously means free meals for some kids that they are not getting at schools.
“I remember when I was in school I was on free meals and my mum wouldn’t get home until 6 o’clock, so my next meal would have been about 8 o’clock.
“I was fortunate, there are kids in much more difficult situations that don’t get that meal at home.
“When I heard the schools were closing I wanted to make a positive influence and make sure the kids are getting the meals they need.”
Rashford has earned praise for taking a firm stance, having been one of the leading figures in helping people during the coronavirus pandemic.
In his letter he wrote: “The Government has taken a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to the economy – I’m asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England.
“I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity. Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holiday period and guarantee the extension.
“This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance.
“Please, while the eyes of the nation are on you, make the U-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority.”
Rashford has previously spoken about how his family relied on breakfast clubs and free school meals as a child, and does not want other children to miss out from not having access to similar schemes.
He added: “As a black man from a low-income family in Wythenshawe, Manchester, I could have been just another statistic.
“Instead, due to the selfless actions of my mum, my family, my neighbours, and my coaches, the only stats I’m associated with are goals, appearances and caps.
“I would be doing myself, my family and my community an injustice if I didn’t stand here today with my voice and my platform and ask you for help.”