Prime minister Boris Johnson today rejected Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford’s call for the government to extend its free school meal voucher scheme into academic holidays. The petition connected to the campaign now has just under 90,000 signatures.
A spokesperson for Downing Street said, “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,” according to the Daily Mirror.
Rashford responded by tweeting “Merry Christmas kids,” before restating his call for the government to pick up the responsibility for feeding children and families in poverty from food banks, which have reported huge rises in use throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic:
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...
Rashford forced the government into a u-turn on free school meals in June, after it had previously refused to extend the scheme into the summer holidays. The novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated food poverty in the U.K, and as food banks face unprecedented uptake, free meal vouchers had been one of the key measures designed to alleviate some of the pressure on their services, especially for parents who would otherwise have at least one, if not two meals a day provided at school. With cases rising, sometimes steeply, across the country, this exacerbation is likely to worsen, and Rashford is unlikely to give up on his fight.