Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford has launched a new taskforce with an alliance between food charities, delivery companies, and supermarkets, which builds on his campaign earlier this summer to help fight food insecurity among the most vulnerable children in the U.K. Now, he hopes to work towards ending food poverty in the country.
Rashford pressured Boris Johnson’s government into a high-profile U-turn over the provision of school meal vouchers through the summer holidays in June, imploring the same politician’s who had unfairly called on footballers to “play their part” by taking a pay cut early in the pandemic to find “humanity.” Rashford, who raised £20 million in funding (3.9 million meals) in a partnership with food charity FareShare during lockdown, 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.
Today, the footballer has announced a new alliance between the Child Food Poverty Task Force with Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, FareShare, Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose. Sky News reports that Rashford and those businesses will spend the next six weeks using their platforms to share the stories of those most affected by child food insecurity. In a new letter to MPs, he said that the businesses would be “standing side by side to shed light on the issue of child food poverty in the UK”, asking MPs if they would joint them.
He added: “When we pause, listen, and reflect on what the future of our next generation could potentially look like, it’s easy to see that if we don’t take action quickly, the issue of child food poverty will have devastating effects on the stability of our country.”
The alliance will also endorse three recommendations made in the recently drafted National Food Strategy, and call on chancellor Rishi Sunak to fund and implement them “without delay”. They include: the expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on universal credit or equivalent (1.5 million children between the ages of seven and 16); expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals; and increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week (from £3.10) and expanding into all those on universal credit or equivalent (reaching an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under the age of four.)
This morning, Rashford kicked off the campaign, tweeting to his 3.2 million followers to help #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY, with the message: “For the millions who don’t have the platform to be heard...”
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. Rashford pointed to the 4.2 million children living in poverty in the U.K. prior to COVID-19 — a number that is expected to have risen. “The time for action is now,” he said.
“I’m proud and I’m humbled to see such a reaction and commitment from the food industry,” Rashford added. “I am confident that together we can help change the lives of those most vulnerable for the better.”