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Goal 02: Zero Hunger
THERE’S ONLY ONE MARCUS RASHFORD
22 year old football superstar Marcus Rashford continues his fight against child food poverty
By leanne walstow
22 october 2020
After making headlines during lockdown by bringing about a government U-turn on free school meals during the summer holidays, Marcus Rashford's free school meal plan has suffered a setback in parliament. However, the football player is still committed to using his huge platform and social media presence to give a voice to struggling families across the UK, and continuing his battle to alleviate food poverty for millions living in the UK.
MPs reject rashford's free school meal plan
On Wednesday 21st October MPs voted on the free school meal plan put forward by Marcus Rashford, which would have meant 1.4 million children in England would have received £15 a week in food vouchers during school holidays. The motion, put forward by the Labour Party, was rejected by 322 votes to 261, with some MPs believing that the scheme would act only as 'sticking plaster' rather than a long term solution to the problems which create food poverty. In response to the decision, Rashford tweeted: 'Put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics, and let’s focus on the reality. A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today.'
PARTNERING WITH FOOD GIANTS TO FIGHT POVERTY
As with many of the issues highlighted during lockdown, food poverty is not something that will end as things begin to return to normal and Marcus Rashford is motoring on with his campaign to make sure no child goes hungry. With children back at school in the UK, Rashford announced he is partnering with the Child Food Poverty Task Force and major players in the food industry with the aim of shedding ‘light on the issue of child food poverty in the UK’, spending the next six weeks highlighting stories from across the country. In an open letter to MPs, Rashford has set out three major policy changes that he and his task force would like to see implemented:
- Expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on universal credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5 million children aged between seven and 16.
- Expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1 million children.
- 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.
If these policies are acted upon, this has the potential to change millions of lives in the UK, helping to fight the growing problem of food poverty. Rashford has said of the campaign: ‘As a sportsman, I have always found such power in unity and teamwork, and I'm thrilled that such influential voices have put any allegiance aside to join me on my mission to move the conversation of child food poverty forward.’ Marcus Rashford is clearly dedicated to improving the lives of children and parents across the country - an amazing example of what can be achieved when a platform is put to good use.
Who is Marcus Rashford?
A football star since his talent was scouted at an early age, Marcus Rashford (still only 22 years old), currently plays for Manchester United and has also played in the England team at an international level. Rashford has previously spoken out about how his family relied on free school meals, food banks and soup kitchens when he was growing up, saying that if someone had spoken up about these issues then, ‘maybe the situation would've been different’.
A lockdown hero
When the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the UK Marcus Rashford stepped up big time, raising millions in donations by partnering with food charity FareShare - an organisation dedicated to relieving food poverty and reducing food waste in the UK. The footballer also launched a poetry competition for deaf children, has been learning sign language and has utilised his huge social media presence to speak out on issues of racial inequality since the killing of George Floyd.
On Friday 12th June, Rashford posted to his millions of followers, asking them to share their own experiences of the government’s food voucher scheme, ‘to understand better the exact scale of the problem’. After gathering responses, Rashford then posted an open letter to MPs on his social channels on Monday 15th, encouraging people to share and send to their local law-makers. The results were incredible. The post went viral, being taken up by the likes of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, fans from rival teams and celebrities alike.
Free school meals for children in need
Rashford’s powerful letter reflected on his own experiences growing up and highlighted that during the pandemic, the Food Foundation estimates that roughly 200,000 children have been forced to skip meals, with school closures putting more pressure on families to provide all three meals each day. ‘From 2018-2019, 9 in 30 children in any given classroom were living in poverty in the UK’ his letter said ‘45% of children in Black and minority ethnic groups are now in poverty.’ Rashford called for the government to prevent these vulnerable children going hungry by reversing the decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the Summer holiday period.
Victory: the government U-turn
The day after Marcus shared his open letter on social media, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the government would be continuing the food voucher scheme - thanks to the campaigning of the football star. Families were given £15 each week per child to spend in supermarkets - for the 1.3 million children who rely on free school meals, this was a lifeline.
Football players have huge international followings and when they utilise their platforms, amazing results often follow - David Beckham was our Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing ambassador last year. We can’t wait to see what Marcus does next - one thing is for sure, he’s definitely got our vote for Sports Personality of the Year!