Manchester United star Marcus Rashford is calling on the UK government to reverse its decision not to provide free school meals during the summer holidays.

The England forward had written to MPs saying that he would not have turned professional without the help of free school meals when he was growing up. He states that he is worried that similar talented players will be lost if the government does not have a change of heart.  

Rashford has raised more than £20m to supply three million meals to vulnerable people while working with charity FareShare during the current coronavirus pandemic.  

Ahead of a parliamentary debate on the issue tomorrow, he has urged MPs to put their party difference aside by making sure that “no child should be going to bed hungry”.  

In his letter, Rashford wrote:  “Food poverty in England is a pandemic that could span generations if we don’t course-correct now.

“The Government has taken a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to the economy – I’m asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England.

“I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity. Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holiday period and guarantee the extension.

“This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance. Please, while the eyes of the nation are on you, make the U-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 04:  Marcus Rashford of England scores their second goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between England and Slovakia at Wembley Stadium on September 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 04: Marcus Rashford of England scores their second goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between England and Slovakia at Wembley Stadium on September 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The free school meal voucher system was introduced in March to help low-income families to help feed their families when the schools have been shut under lock-down measures that were brought in during the coronavirus pandemic.

But ministers earlier this month announced that the scheme would not run during the summer holidays.

The voucher scheme – worth £15 a week – is eligible to the families of the 1.3m children who are currently on free school meals.

Last week, Rashford received the High Sheriff Special Recognition award for his work in Greater Manchester.

Rashford added: “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.

“The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.”

The Department of Education has confirmed that the scheme will not run during the summer holidays. They said: “As schools open more widely, and their kitchens reopen, we expect schools to make food parcels available for collection or delivery for any children that are eligible for free school meals who are not yet able to return to school. Where this is not possible, schools can continue to offer vouchers to eligible pupils.”

The Spokesperson from the Education Department added that there is a new £63m local authority welfare assistance scheme that will support the most vulnerable families. Also, the Holiday Activities and Food programme offers activities and free school meals during the school holidays.

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