The footballer Marcus Rashford has described being “overwhelmed with pride” at the progress of his campaign to fight child food poverty as ministers announced a £170m winter grant scheme aimed at helping low-income families struggling as a result of Covid-19.
Rashford said he had talked with Boris Johnson after his Manchester United team played Everton on Saturday, and was told of the latest plans. While he said many of the campaign’s objectives had yet to be met, he was proud and grateful for the positive steps taken.
“Following the game today, I had a good conversation with the prime minister to better understand the proposed plan, and I very much welcome the steps that have been taken to combat child food poverty in the UK,” the England striker said.
“There is still so much more to do, and my immediate concern is the approximate 1.7 million children who miss out on free school meals, holiday provision and Healthy Start vouchers because their family income isn’t quite low enough. But the intent the government have shown today is nothing but positive and they should be recognised for that. The steps made today will improve the lives of near 1.7 million children in the UK over the next 12 months.”
Ministers had faced fierce criticism for refusing to extend free school meals to children from low-income families during the half-term holiday, as demanded by Rashford.
But the government now says it is providing better-targeted support in a package that will cost more than four times as much as would have been required to fund free school meals for two weeks (£40m). It earmarks £170m over the next four months to families in the greatest need, with the scheme running until early March.
In addition, the holiday activities and food programme will also be expanded across England next year.
Rashford added: “I don’t want any child to go through what I went through, and any parent to experience what my mother experienced. I now call on the government to collaborate with the child food poverty taskforce to guarantee that no child does.
“As a collective we are so powerful and we all have a role to play in this. Today, I’m overwhelmed with pride that we have made such significant progress. We will not give up on our children. We will not give up on the future of this country.”