Footballer Marcus Rashford again steps in where the state will not
Footballer Marcus Rashford and his Child Food Poverty Taskforce — largely made up of food charities, supermarkets, and restaurant groups — have created a map of food relief organisations across the U.K. As part of his #endchildfoodpoverty campaign, Rashford’s website both offers local resources, and invites individuals to join the campaign through donations and volunteering.
Rashford’s personal experience of the circumstances he seeks to fix, and appeal to treat children being fed as a human rights issue before a food policy issue, has led to waves of support from both individuals and organisations. He’s been able to force the government into multiple u-turns on providing state funding for hungry children, managing to do so by cleverly — not naively — asserting that a crisis needs fixing without directly asserting the subtext: that it is objectively absurd that he is the one fixing it; that the government should be fixing it without his intervention.
Crucially, Rashford’s website cites poverty statistics that predate the novel coronavirus pandemic, in order to show how it has exacerbated existing inequality, not caused it: 4.2 million children in food poverty; two in five children living below the poverty line are not eligible for free school meals. His advocacy pivots on the introduction of three recommendations in the otherwise flimsy National Food Strategy (NFS): extend the government’s holiday activity and food programme to all free school meal recipients; increase the value of Healthy Start food vouchers to £4.25 from £3.10; and expanding free school meals to any child under 16 whose parents are on any kind of benefit. The first two have been made, the latter has not as yet.
As with UNICEF’s £700,000 intervention in the U.K. to feed hungry children, these incredible feats of generosity and charity are incredible in every sense — a marvel of community support and an unbelievable indictment of the U.K.’s governance of its most vulnerable people. The ceiling of Rashford’s campaign is that his personal intervention, and support from charities like FareShare and enterprises like McDonald’s and the Co-Op, is a vindication of the Conservative tenet of personal responsibility, whose animating principle has normalised food banks and charitable giving ahead of effective state support. When people say they “shame” the government, however much it might feel like it, they are wrong. He can’t call it political, because if he did charities couldn’t support him. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t know that it is.
And in other news...
- As London enters tier four, restaurant groups call for the government to plot a financial and temporal route out.
- London’s beleaguered restaurants are looking to 2021 more in hope than expectation.
- The U.K. and EU nations will establish protocol to allow lorries carrying perishable food to resume crossing between the U.K. and France, after the latter closed its borders to U.K. arrivals last night. Brexit is in ten days. Very cool! [BBC]
- Good tweet: