Marcus Rashford’s proposals for a new taskforce to tackle hunger in children will be considered by Boris Johnson’s Government, the Prime Minister’s spokesman has said.
The Manchester United and England striker is to spearhead new moves to counter child food poverty after forcing a Government U-turn on free school meal vouchers for eligible children over the summer holidays.
The 22-year-old has spoken about his own experience of using a food voucher scheme as a child and has won plaudits for his campaigning on the issue.
Manchester United tweeted ‘We couldn’t be prouder’ to the club’s 22 million Twitter followers alongside a photo of the player.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Number 10 will “carefully consider” the recommendations from Rashford’s taskforce.
He told a Westminster briefing: “We are taking substantial action to make sure that no child goes hungry during the pandemic and continue to support those in need.
“Our national voucher scheme supported children eligible for free school meals while they were at home and the Covid summer fund ensured that families continued to receive support over the summer.
“We will carefully consider the taskforce recommendations.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Rashford said he knew the free school meal vouchers over the summer would not be the end of his campaigning.
He added: “I think we pretty much knew straight away we had found a short-term solution but that wasn’t going to work in the long run.
“We had to think about how’s the best way to do it so these families can eat long term and not have any issues.”
Rashford has teamed up with the food industry to shed light on the issue of child food poverty in the UK.
Along with Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, FareShare, Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, he has formed the Child Food Poverty Task Force.
Over the next six weeks, they will dedicate their platforms to sharing stories of those most affected by child food insecurity in the UK.
Rashford said the taskforce is endorsing three national policy recommendations.
In a letter to MPs, he said the objective is to ‘see sufficient funds from the Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review allocated to implementing these without delay’.
The first recommendation is the expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5 million seven to 16-year-olds.
The second is the expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1 million children.
The third is increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week (from £3.10) and expanding to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under the age of four.
In his letter, Rashford wrote: ‘When we pause, listen and reflect on what the future of our next generation could potentially look like, it’s easy to see that if we don’t take action quickly, the issue of child food poverty will have devastating effects on the stability of our country.
‘These children are the future – our next generation of NHS workers, police officers, footballers and politicians.’
Rashford recalled his own experience, writing: ‘I remember the sound of my mum crying herself to sleep to this day, having worked a 14-hour shift, unsure how she was going to make ends meet.’
He said he has sat with parents who have ‘cried with sheer relief that putting food on their children’s plates was one less thing to worry about this summer’.
He told MPs: ‘I spoke to a mother recently who, along with her two young sons, is currently living off three slices of bread a day – soaking them in hot water and adding sugar, hoping that the porridge consistency might better sustain the hunger of her one-year-old child.
‘This is the true reality of England in 2020.’
Picture: Archive photo, dated 22nd December 2019, of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.(Mike Egerton/PA).