Manchester United and England footballer, Marcus Rashford has made an impassioned plea for the government to scrap its plan to cancel the free school meal voucher scheme for children during the summer holidays.
Rashford, who was brought up in a single parent family in Wythenshawe, has written to MPs recounting his childhood experiences and visits to foodbanks and soup kitchens and calling for action to help poorer families cope with the economic impact of the Covid 19 pandemic.
An Open Letter to all MPs in Parliament…#maketheUturn
Please retweet and tag your local MPs pic.twitter.com/GXuUxFJdcv
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) June 14, 2020
Speaking to the BBC, Rashford said: “It’s written from the heart and it’s about how my life was at the moment – the letter is to open up and let people understand the impact on families and to know I’ve done the right thing.
“What families are going through now, I’ve once had to go through that – and it’s very difficult to find a way out. It’s very important for me to help people who are struggling. Whether the outcome changes or doesn’t change – that’s why I wrote it.”
The footballer has raised about £20m to provide meals for vulnerable people while working with charity FareShare UK during the coronavirus lockdown.
Campaigners have threatened legal action against the government for not extending the food voucher scheme into the summer holidays.
In his open letter, Rashford told MPs: “Food poverty in England is a pandemic that could span generations if we don’t course correct now. Whilst 1.3 million children are registered for free school meals, one quarter of these children have not been given any support since the school closures were ordered.
“We rely on parents, many of whom have seen their jobs evaporate due to Covid 19, to play substitute teacher during lockdown, hoping that their children are going to be focussed enough to learn, with only a small percentage of their nutritional needs met during this period. This is a system failure and without education, we’re encouraging this cycle of hardship to continue.”
Recalling his family’s reliance on breakfast clubs, free school meals and the sacrifices made by his mother he said: “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked… It is only now that I really understand the enormous sacrifice my mum made to send me away to live in digs aged 11, a decision no mother would ever make lightly.”
In his plea for the government to reverse its decision to cancel the food voucher scheme, Rashford adds: “As a black man from a low income family in Wythenshawe, I could have been just another statistic. Instead, 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 with my voice and my platform and ask you for help.
“The government has taken a “whatever it takes” approach to the economy. I’m asking you today to extend that same thinking to all vulnerable children across England. I encourage you to hear their pleas for humanity.”
Rashford has attracted widespread support and has been dubbed “the Pride of Wythenshawe”. The town’s MP and former shadow schools minister, Mike Kane, has backed his U-turn call.
As far as football goes, I am a blue. Today I am so proud of this Wythenshawe ‘Red’. @MarcusRashford
using his platform to tell his story to help ensure no child goes hungry over the school holidays. Well done Marcus. You have my backing #maketheUturn https://t.co/Dlqw4Rjlth
— Mike Kane (@MikeKaneMP) June 15, 2020