Marcus Rashford’s school meals petition smashes through debate threshold
Written by on 16 October 2020
Marcus Rashford’s petition to end child food poverty and provide free meals during all school holidays has passed 200,000 names – just a day after it launched.
The Manchester United and England striker is also campaigning for the free meals to be expanded to all households on Universal Credit.
He says it will reach 1.5 million seven to 16-year-olds who are currently missing out.
‘Marcus Rashford has been listened to’
The petition only went live on Thursday, but surged through the 100,000 threshold to be considered for parliamentary debate in just 10 hours.
“100k in less than a day,” tweeted the footballer.
“The bigger the number the louder the voice… We’re not stopping here – please sign and keep sharing.”
By 10.10am on Friday, it stood at 200,000 names and was rapidly climbing.
Rashford took a swipe at the government and vowed to continue his fight when it pushed back against his latest campaign earlier this week.
“It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays,” said a Downing Street spokesman.
“We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.”
The footballer replied on Twitter: “It’s also not for food banks to feed millions of British children but here we are. 250% increase in food poverty and rising…
“This is not going away anytime soon and neither am I…”
Rashford, 22, was recently made an MBE for his services to vulnerable children in the Queen’s birthday honours after a high-profile campaign on child hunger.
September: Marcus Rashford on poverty task force
He forced a government U-turn on free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils over the summer holidays after explaining how similar schemes had helped him.
But a Downing Street spokesman said on Thursday that circumstances had changed.
“We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic when schools were partially closed during lockdown,” he said.
“We’re in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab backed that position when speaking to Sky’s Kay Burley on Friday morning.
He said he had “a lot of time” for Rashford and understands he is “talking from the heart”.
However, he insisted the right measures were now in place, such as giving local authorities “emergency money precisely to deal with these sorts of scenarios”.
“We’ll always listen to what Marcus has got to say,” said Mr Raab.
“But I think we’ve put the right package in place already, and of course parliament can debate these issues and it’s quite right that they should.”
The expansion of free school meals is one of three National Food Strategy policy recommendations that Rashford is backing.
It also calls for an expansion of school holiday food and activities programmes to more families, and an increase in the value of Healthy Start vouchers from GBP3.10 a week to GBP4.25.
The vouchers offer free milk and produce to pregnant mothers and families with young children.