MARCUS Rashford’s campaign to tackle holiday hunger and child poverty in England has been addressed with a £396m package in a government climbdown reports the BBC.
The prime minister telephoned the footballer on Saturday to tell him of the new plans for targeted support over Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays.
Rashford said nearly 1.7 million children would be helped, adding he had a good conversation with Boris Johnson.
More than a million people signed a petition set up by the Manchester United and England player, calling for a package of measures including free food for poor children throughout the school holidays.
Mr Johnson contacted Rashford after he played in United’s Premier League clash against Everton.
Speaking after the Saturday afternoon telephone call, Rashford said:
“Following the game today, I had a good conversation with the prime minister to better understand the proposed plan, and I very much welcome the steps that have been taken to combat child food poverty in the UK.”
He said his immediate concern was the children who miss out on support “because their family income isn’t quite low enough”.
But he added: “The intent the government have shown today is nothing but positive and they should be recognised for that.
“The steps made today will improve the lives of near 1.7 million children in the UK over the next 12 months, and that can only be celebrated.”
Announcing the package, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said the government knew it was a challenging time for many, and insisted it had consistently supported the lowest paid families by boosting welfare support.
“We want to make sure vulnerable people are cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter,” she added.
Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said: “This is a big win for disadvantaged children. A win for all those brave parents and children who have spoken up about their experiences of food poverty.
“And a win for the 1.1 million individuals across the country who showed how much they cared by signing Marcus Rashford’s petition.”
She added that it must be kept in mind that approximately 1.7 million disadvantaged children would continue to miss out on the benefits of free school meals and healthy start because the qualifying income level is too low.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, who also chairs the End Child Poverty Coalition, said: “Marcus Rashford deserves enormous credit for pushing the issue of poverty to the top of the public’s agenda and we must also acknowledge the government for listening.”
James Toop, chief executive, of food charity Bite Back 2030, said: “It’s great that Boris has listened to the voices of our young people who have been campaigning for meal provision through the holidays to be a priority through this crisis.
“This announcement shows real commitment to helping 1.4 million children access a decent, nutritious meal over Christmas and the February half term.
Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said the scheme was particularly welcome.
“Christmas will not be the same this year – and it is therefore even more important that we ensure that children have food and are kept warm.”