Rashford 'blown away' by support after imploring UK government to continue free meals

Getty Images

Marcus Rashford has been "blown away" by the response to his letter calling for the United Kingdom government to continue their food voucher scheme over the school holidays.

Manchester United striker Rashford has written to members of the House of Commons imploring them not to stop providing vouchers for vulnerable children who receive free school meals during term time.

Vouchers were given out over the Easter holiday because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the scheme is set to end next month when the next school holidays begin.

In his letter, 22-year-old Rashford wrote: "The Government has taken a 'whatever it takes' approach to the economy – I'm asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England. I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity.

"Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holiday and guarantee the extension. This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance."

The England international, who has raised around £20million while working with FareShare to supply three million meals, was widely praised on social media for his words.

Labour leader Keir Starmer wrote on Twitter: "This is such an important and moving letter. @MarcusRashford is right, we cannot let 1.3 million children go hungry this summer. Thank you, Marcus, for all the work you are doing to support children during the coronavirus crisis."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also retweeted Rashford's post with the comment: "I might be a Londoner and Liverpool fan, but I fully support @ManUtd's @MarcusRashford. As a child I benefitted from free school meals. The Government must extend its free school meal scheme for disadvantaged children over the summer holidays. (And his mum should be very proud.)"

Rashford later posted again on Monday afternoon, writing: "Wow, just got home from training and I'm blown away with the support. It's not over yet, let's keep retweeting and tagging local MPs. We need to be the voice for those 200,000 children who have no choice but to skip meals today, I refuse to give up #maketheUturn"

The Department of Education posted a blog on its website detailing the free school meals scheme and its criteria.

A spokesperson said: "As schools open more widely, and their kitchens reopen, we expect schools to make food parcels available for collection or delivery for any children that are eligible for free school meals who are not yet able to return to school. Where this is not possible, schools can continue to offer vouchers to eligible pupils.

"Free school meals are ordinarily term time only, and the national voucher scheme will not run during the summer holidays. However, as announced this week by the Prime Minister, the local authority welfare assistance scheme will provide help to those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to the impact of COVID-19. £63million is being allocated to this important project.

"Thousands of children will also receive additional support through our Holiday Activities and Food programme, which offers activities and free meals throughout the summer holidays."