Marcus Rashford has launched an online petition urging the Government to make three commitments to support vulnerable children as part of the #endchildfoodpoverty campaign.
The Manchester United and England forward, who was awarded an MBE for his work after successfully lobbying the Government into a U-turn over its free school meals policy during lockdown, has called for Government support for three recommendations from their National Food Strategy.
The #endchildfoodpoverty campaign is supported by the Child Food Poverty Task Force, which was formed by Rashford, a further 20 charities and key names in the food industry.
They are calling on the Government to allocate sufficient budget to the three National Food Strategy recommendations, as part of an urgent recovery package for vulnerable children this autumn.
The recommendations are:
- Expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged between seven and 16
- Expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1m 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
Rashford said: “For too long this conversation has been delayed. Child food poverty in the UK is not a result of COVID-19. We must act with urgency to stabilise the households of our vulnerable children.
“In 2020, no child in the UK should be going to bed hungry, nor should they be sat in classrooms concerned about how their younger siblings are going to eat that day, or how they are going to access food come the holidays.
“The school holidays used to be a highlight of the year for children. Today, it is met with anxiety from those as young as seven years old.
“Many have said that education is the most effective means of combating poverty. I do not disagree with this statement, but education is only effective when children can engage in learning. Right now, a generation who have already been penalised during this pandemic with lack of access to educational resources are now back in school struggling to concentrate due to worry and the sound of their rumbling stomachs.
“Whatever your feeling, opinion, or judgement, food poverty is never the child’s fault. Let’s protect our young. Let’s wrap arms around each other and stand together to say that this is unacceptable, that we are united in protecting our children.”
Data released by the Food Foundation has revealed that 18 per cent of 8-17 year olds (1.4m children) reported experiences of food insecurity over the summer holidays.
Rising numbers of families are struggling with an 11 per cent (850,000) of children aged 8-17 reporting that either they or their families had visited a food bank in the summer holidays. This was more than 60 per cent higher in non-white British ethnic groups.
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