1,000,000 sign Marcus Rashford’s petition to end child food poverty

What an achievement! Marcus Rashford’s petition for free school meals over the holidays has been signed by one million people (Picture: Getty/PA/AP)

Marcus Rashford’s petition to extend free school meals over the holidays has been signed by more than one million people.

The Manchester United star’s campaign to end child food poverty has put the Government under intense pressure as it continues to gather pace and threatens a revolt among Tory MPs.

Thousands of volunteers and small businesses, including takeaways, restaurants and pubs, have been inspired by the campaign and are now offering free food to children over the half-term.

Rashford wants the scheme to cover future school holidays after he successfully forced a government U-turn in the summer holidays.

But ministers have so far refused to budge to his demands, saying money has already been given to councils in England to support families.

The scheme would cost about £20 million per week and an estimated £260 million a year if it was applied to all 13 weeks of school holidays.

It would provide meals for an additional 1.5 million children aged seven to 16, who come from households on Universal Credit or equivalent.

George Osborne joined the growing wave of critics yesterday, saying Boris Johnson had been ‘nutmegged’ by Rashford and a U-turn was now ‘inevitable’. 

Marcus Rashford and his mother visited a food charity which named a new warehouse in her honour (Picture: PA)
Marcus Rashford got stuck in at the charity (Picture: PA)

But the PM has not backed down, and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has followed suit, saying he does not ‘think it’s always the right answer that central government comes in and dictates things’. 

Rashford has been very open about his tough background and wants to use his platform to help other children.

Speaking about the campaign, the 22-year-old footballer said: ‘as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.’

In an open letter to the government, he said: ‘I remember the sound of my mum crying herself to sleep, having worked a 14-hour shift, unsure how she was going to make ends meet.’

Rashford, who recently became an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list, began his campaign in the summer, calling on the government to keep paying for the £15-a-week food vouchers over the holidays.

On June 15, the PM rejected the footballer’s plea, but just 24 hours later, with Tory MPs threatening to revolt, Downing Street did a U-turn and announced a new £120m ‘Covid summer food fund’.

During the coronavirus lockdown, the government provided vouchers to families whose children qualify for free meals.

Rashford’s petition was debated in Parliament earlier this month, but it was defeated by 322 to 261.

Just five Tory MPs voted in favour of the motion, including Caroline Ansell of Eastbourne and Robert Halfon of Harlow.

Some MPs were very vocal in their disapproval of the motion, including Ben Bradley, MP for Mansfield, who tweeted ‘extending freebies are a sticking plaster not a solution.’

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker rejected the footballer’s suggestion that anyone would be turning a blind eye if they voted against the motion and said that free school meals would ‘destroy’ the economy.

Head here to sign Rashford’s petition.

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