Marcus Rashford has shared the details of dozens of restaurants, shops and community groups offering to feed the country’s poorest children after 322 Tories voted down a motion to extend free school meals.
Starting on Thursday night, the England footballer who has spent months campaigning to stop child hunger through school holidays, has shared posts from businesses and groups nationwide who are volunteering free food for children who may otherwise go hungry.
From free sandwiches, sausages and curries to taxis to the nearest available foodbank, dozens of posts have now been shared online as millions of families face a half term of hardship.
Rashford, who successfully campaigned for an extension to food vouchers for children on free school meals through the summer holidays, has urged the government to extend the scheme through to April 2021 as families nationwide struggle with the financial impact of Covid-19 lockdowns.
There are more than 1.4m children currently eligible for free school meals, with it emerging in early October that some 900,000 more children had recently signed up for the scheme.
New research published on Friday reveals that one in seven parents of children not on free school meals are also struggling to cover the cost of food – equivalent to around 850,000 families.
The report by The Children’s Society also reveals 40% of respondents said they had cut down on food they bought for themselves in order to pay for school meals, while a fifth had borrowed money from friends and family.
In a bid to cover costs 17% said they had delayed making gas and electricity payments, while 5% said they had used a foodbank and 5% said they had borrowed from a commercial lender.
Rashford’s direct approach has earned widespread praise, with one Twitter user describing the offers of help from businesses, councils and community groups as “life-affirming”, adding that the footballer’s social media feed “has got me in tears.”
That man @MarcusRashford ;s Twitter feed right now has got me in tears - seeing all the pubs, restaurants and cafes who are financially on their knees right now doing the job the government refused to and offering kids free meals to stop them going hungry is life-affirming
— Alexandra Topping (@LexyTopping) October 23, 2020
Has someone been chopping onions near @MarcusRashford’s twitter feed or have I just got something in my eye?
— Liam Thorp (@LiamThorpECHO) October 23, 2020
Marcus Rashford appears to have set up an alternative government pic.twitter.com/cuJd9t20tK
— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) October 23, 2020
I've just been directed towards @MarcusRashford's twitter feed - pretty amazing what's happening on there
— Rachel Burden (@rachelburden) October 23, 2020
Rashford and his mother visited food charity FareShare in Greater Manchester on Thursday, a day after the Tories voted down the motion, to meet staff and volunteers to see how the charity will be responding to soaring demand this Christmas.
The footballer has spoken about his own experience of using a food voucher scheme as a child.
In a letter to MPs a few weeks ago, Rashford reflected on 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.”
FareShare is naming a new warehouse after Rashford’s mother, and has launched a campaign to raise £300,000 to refurbish the huge new space.
In Greater Manchester alone, FareShare is now distributing more than 80 tonnes of food each week, equivalent to more than 200,000 meals.
Speaking during the visit Rashford said: “The real superstars in this country can be found in the heart of most cities, towns and villages, working tirelessly to support our most vulnerable across the UK.
“As FareShare and other food-related charities approach one of the toughest Winters on record, with demand higher than ever before, it is important that I stay connected and lend my support wherever it is needed.
“When we stumble, there will always be a community to wrap their arms around us and pick us back up. For many of us, that is FareShare or the local food bank.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.