The United Kingdom’s prime minister Boris Johnson has said he will not continue to give free school meals to children hours after Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford launched a petition to encourage the government to end child food poverty.
The petition asks the government to implement three points from the National Food Strategy including expanding free school meals, providing meals and activities during the holidays and expanding other schemes in place to prevent child hunger.
“Remember when I said I was going to need your help,” Rashford tweeted with a link to the petition. “For the millions who do not have the platform to be heard. Let’s stand as a ‘United’ Kingdom to #endchildfoodpoverty.”
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The peition surpassed the 100,000-signature mark by Thursday afternoon that it needed considered for a parliamentary debate. However, when asked about the scheme a spokesperson for Johnson said: “It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays.”
In June Rashford convinced the UK government to reverse a decision to end a national voucher scheme to feed children from low-income families.
He wrote an open letter to politicians asking them to extend the free school meals programme and earned an eventual U-turn.
“We are in a different position now,” the spokesperson added.
He has also raised over £20 million for food distribution charity FareShare during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 22-year-old, who relied on meal vouchers during his school days in Manchester, was praised by Johnson for his “contribution to the debate around poverty.”
Remember when I said I was going to need your help…
For the millions who do not have the platform to be heard.
Let’s stand as a ‘United’ Kingdom to #endchildfoodpoverty
Sign the petition today: https://t.co/FvvpO6JYWX
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 15, 2020
Rashford was awarded an MBE for his work on child food poverty.
“It’s a nice moment for me personally but I feel like I’m still at the beginning of the journey that I set out to try to achieve,” Rashford told the BBC after receiving the award.
“I think what I would like to do now that I’m in this position is just speak directly to the prime minister and really ask for the vouchers to be extended until at least October half-term because I think that’s what the families need.”