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Marcus Rashford refuses to give up on campaign to extend free school meals

The Manchester United and England striker wants the Government to extend the current food voucher scheme into the summer holidays.

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Marcus Rashford is continuing to urge the Government to reconsiderits decision not to extend the current food voucher scheme (Mike Egerton/PA)

Marcus Rashford is continuing to urge the Government to reconsiderits decision not to extend the current food voucher scheme (Mike Egerton/PA)

Marcus Rashford is continuing to urge the Government to reconsiderits decision not to extend the current food voucher scheme (Mike Egerton/PA)

Marcus Rashford says he will “focus on a trophy that stands for something much bigger than football” as he once again urged the Government to reconsider its decision not to extend the current food voucher scheme.

The Manchester United forward is continuing his campaign to allow vulnerable children who have been getting free meals during the coronavirus lockdown to carry on receiving them over 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, and believes the Government revising its decision could be a small step towards fighting child poverty.

He wrote in The Times: “Today I focus on a trophy that stands for something much bigger than football.

“A U-turn on the decision to stop the free food voucher scheme continuing over the summer holidays could help us reach the next round but we still have a very long way to go as a country to eventually lift the trophy.

“In this case, the trophy is combating child poverty.

“I don’t claim to have the education of an MP in parliament, but I do have a social education. I am clued up on the difference a U-turn decision would make on the 1.3 million vulnerable children across the UK who are registered for free school meals because 10 years ago I was one of them.”

Rashford, who has scored 10 times in 38 appearances for England, added in a series of tweets: “When you wake up this morning and run your shower, take a second to think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown.

“When you turn on your kettle to make a cup of tea or coffee think of those parents who have had to default on electricity bill payments just to make ends meet having lost their jobs during the pandemic.

“And when you head to the fridge to grab the milk, stop and recognise that parents of at least 200,000 children across the country this morning are waking up to empty shelving.

“Recognise children around the country are this morning innocently questioning ‘why?’ 9 out of 30 children in any given classroom are today asking ‘why?’ ‘Why does our future not matter?’”

Rashford’s letter to MPs earlier this week has attracted significant attention on the issue.

While a Department for Education spokesman has said the national voucher scheme “will not run during the summer holidays”, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman says the Prime Minister will respond to Rashford’s letter “as soon as he can”.

The campaign received a further push on Monday night when former England striker Gary Lineker asked the Government to consider the struggles of impoverished families during the coronavirus crisis.

“Obviously these are strange times. Kids wouldn’t ordinarily be fed during the summer holidays, I understand that. But you’ve got to look at it and go ‘These are very, very difficult times for a lot of people and a lot of families’,” the Match of the Day presenter said on BBC Newsnight.

“There are a lot of young people, young children, in this country that are going hungry. And in a country like ours, a country of quite substantial wealth, that seems to be largely unacceptable.

“Hopefully the powers that be will listen. It seems strange that we have to be in a position where we are desperately arguing to try to get young people fed, and stop them being hungry.”

PA