The government has made a sharp U-turn over free school meals after a spirited campaign by professional footballer Marcus Rashford among others, and social media has given him a hero’s reception.

Earlier today, the prime minister’s office announced a new covid-19 Summer Food Fund will be launched to pay for lunches for the 1.3 million children on free meals in term time for the whole of the summer holidays.

The scheme, which will cost around £120million, was originally planned to cease at the end of the school term.

It’s the latest effort by Rashford to help children in need, after he raised £20 million for the FareShare charity supplying children’s meals during the pandemic in April.

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)

In a Twitter post, the Man United striker said: “This was never about me or you, this was never about politics, this was a cry out for help from vulnerable parents all over the country and I simply provided a platform for their voices to be heard. 

“I stand proud today knowing that we have listened, and we have done what is right.

“There is still a long way to go but I am thankful to you all that we have given these families just one less thing to worry about tonight.

“The wellbeing of our children should always be a priority.”

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer called it a ‘welcome U-turn’ saying the thought of 1.3 million children going hungry this summer was ‘unimaginable’.

In the daily coronavirus press briefing, Boris Johnson congratulated Rashford, saying he had spoken to him on the phone earlier today.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14:  Gary Lineker speaks during a pro-remain a rally rejecting the the Prime Minister's Brexit deal on November 14, 2018 in London, England. Anti-Brexit groups 'Best for Britain' and 'The People's Vote Campaign' are holding a joint rally tonight to call on MPs to say they are not buying the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.  (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 14: Gary Lineker speaks during a pro-remain a rally rejecting the the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal on November 14, 2018 in London, England. Anti-Brexit groups ‘Best for Britain’ and ‘The People’s Vote Campaign’ are holding a joint rally tonight to call on MPs to say they are not buying the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The U-turn has certainly set Twitter in motion with fans and famous faces all identifying Rashford as the hero of the piece.

To top it all off, even rivals Manchester City’s official Twitter account said Rashford was ‘making Manchester proud’.

This is the latest government U-turn in a growing line, including the NHS surcharge for health and care workers and the restrictions placed on imported chlorinated chicken from the US.

While other factors may have been involved, this particular change of policy will be remembered by the public as being a triumph for Marcus Rashford.

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