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Footballer Marcus Rashford ‘Plays His Part’ and Forces Government Into Free School Meal U-Turn [Updated]

The Manchester United and England star had pressured the government to find “humanity” and extend free school meals through the summer

Burnley FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The government gets schooled on free meals

Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford’s campaign for an extension to free school meals has finally forced the government into an embarrassing U-turn. Rashford, who has raised £20 million in funding in a partnership with food charity Fareshare, this week wrote an open letter, drawing on his childhood experience living with his mother, a single parent to five children, who frequently had to use vouchers and food banks to keep the family fed. He asked MPs: “Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?” The government’s answer thus far, had been “no,” but it has now announced a £15 per week voucher scheme for eligible children for the full six weeks of summer holidays.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated food poverty in the U.K, and as food banks face unprecedented uptake, free meal vouchers are 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. The scheme has already been criticised for its limited choice of supermarkets, with reports of vouchers failing at tills. While the government had initially made £63 million available to local authorities to cover the summer deficit, that wouldn’t have covered the roughly 1.3 million children from low-income backgrounds that are eligible for free school meals. The stand-off also recalls Matt Hancock’s widely derided assertion that footballers should “play their part,” by taking a pay cut. Rashford has done it, and now, finally, the government has too.

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