Premier League player calls on government to reverse free school meals decision

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United during the FA Cup Third Round Replay match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on January 15, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

Marcus Rashford has asked the government to reverse its decision regarding free school meal vouchers.

The government decided that children will not be able to get the vouchers during the summer and the England and Manchester United striker has asked for help whether he thinks he can change their minds or not.

The 22-year-old highlighted his own childhood experiences and told those responsible that "the system isn't built for families like mine to succeed".

Number 10 has said that prime minister Boris Johnson will respond to Rashford’s request.

A Downing Street official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister understands the issues facing families across the UK.

“The PM will respond to Marcus Rashford’s letter as soon as he can – he has been using his profile in a positive way to highlight some very important issues.”

During the coronavirus pandemic Rashford, through his work with FareShare UK, has raised over £20 million and supplied free meals to over three million people.

In the letter, Rashford wrote: "My mum worked full-time, earning the minimum wage, to make sure we always had a good evening meal on the table, but it was not enough.

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"The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked. Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to be hungry?"

"As a black man from a low-income family in Wythenshawe, Manchester, I could have been just another statistic.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who is celebrating his 40th birthday today, makes a statement in the House of Commons on the government's economic package in response to the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)

Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that 1.3 million children would not receive free school meals over the six-week summer holidays. Those eligible usually receive £15 a week per child to be used in supermarkets.

The Children’s Commissioner for England warned Sunak that the decision was “uncaring and lacking in compassion”.

Anne Longfield said: “It reflects very poorly on the importance the government places on children that within £132bn of spending you cannot find a few million pounds to keep children fed.”

Rashford’s campaigning over the last few months led to supermarkets such as Asda, Tesco and The Co-Op making significant donations to FareShare and he was recently presented with an award from the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester Eamonn O'Neal for his efforts.

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He has also taught PE lessons to school children as part of the BBC’s Celebrity Supply Teacher scheme during lockdown, and learned sign language to judge a poetry competition for deaf children.

Last Christmas his ‘In The Box’ campaign encouraged people to fill a shoebox with essential items and donate them to three homeless shelters: Barnabus, Centrepoint and Lifeshare.

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

In his letter yesterday he added: "Due to the selfless actions of my mum, my family, my neighbours, and my coaches, the only stats I'm associated with are goals, appearances and caps.

"I would be doing myself, my family and my community an injustice if I didn't stand here today with my voice and my platform and ask you for help."