Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford has written a letter to MPs, pleading with the government to extend its free school meal scheme into the summer holidays. Rashford has been a vocal campaigner for the charity FareShare during the coronavirus pandemic, which has been working to ensure all children who would normally receive school meals – with schools closed – have enough food. But the government has announced it will not extend the free school meals voucher system for low-income families over the summer. Rashford tweeted out the following message, asking his followers to tag in their local members for Parliament, in an effort to change the minds of Boris Johnson’s cabinet.
Marcus Rashford said “As many of you know, as lockdown hit and schools were temporarily closed, I partnered with food distribution charity FareShare to help cover some of the free school meal deficit. Whilst the campaign is currently distributing three million meals a week to those most vulnerable across the UK, I recognise it’s just not enough. This is not about politics; this is about humanity. Looking at ourselves in the mirror and feeling like we did everything we could to protect those who can’t, for whatever reason or circumstance, protect themselves. Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry? We rely on parents, many of whom have seen their jobs evaporate due to Covid-19, to play substitute teacher during lockdown, hoping that their children are going to be focused enough to learn, with only a small percentage of their nutritional needs met during this period. I am asking you to listen to their parents’ stories as I have received thousands of insights from people struggling. I have listened when fathers have told me they are struggling with depression, unable to sleep, worried sick about how they are going to support their families having lost their jobs unexpectedly, headteachers who are personally covering the cost of food packages for their vulnerable families after the school debit card has been maxed out; mothers who can’t cover the cost of increased electricity and food bills during the lockdown, and parents who are sacrificing their own meals for their children. In 2020, it shouldn’t be a case of one or the other.”
Rashford cited his own experiences growing up in Wythenshawe, south Manchester, as a key reason behind his charity work and the sacrifices made by his mother to help him become a United footballer. He has already helped raise £20million for the charity and has been widely praised for his actions in recent weeks.
Marcus Rashford said He added: “As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind actions of neighbours and coaches. Food banks and soup kitchens were not alien to us; I recall very clearly our visits to Northern Moor to collect our Christmas dinners every year. It’s only now that I really understand the enormous sacrifice my mum made in sending me away to live in digs aged 11, a decision no mother would ever make lightly. The man who you see now” is a product of his mother’s “love and care” and ended the letter with a personal plea to Johnson and the country’s decision-makers to help the country’s most vulnerable children. 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 period and guarantee the extension. This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance. Please, while the eyes of the nation are on you, make the u-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority.”
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