The House of Commons Petitions Committee will hear evidence Thursday after Marcus Rashford’s campaign against child food poverty in the UK spawned a petition that received more than 1.1 million signatures.
The petition, entitled “End child poverty – no child should go hungry” was launched in October by the Manchester United and England striker and passed the one million milestone on October 28th.
Rashford campaigned successfully for the government to give disadvantaged children food vouchers several times over the past year, first in the summer and again at Christmas. The petition asks the government to allocate sufficient budget to three recommendations of the National Food Strategy.
The 23-year-old has so far been awarded an MBE for his work. He was also recognized as the youngest recipient of the Tribute Award by the Football Writers’ Association. Prior to the taking of evidence on Thursday, the striker spoke to Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP.
“I think we need baselines. So if you make sure that all children in the UK, for example, are guaranteed one meal a day, parents will be stressed out,” said Rashford.
“When you’re a kid, you don’t think about it. I remember when I was younger I played all day and then I went home and if there was food I ate it. If not, I would go to sleep
“You just get on with your day, but the long-term effect is that they miss a lot of important things.”
Lindsay Boswell, the executive director of the charity FareShare, will be under the evidence on Thursday. Rashford has been the FareShare ambassador since March last year.
The committee will also hear from representatives from the Trussell Trust, the Children’s Society, and the Food Foundation for their views on how the government can build on their winter aid package for vulnerable families.
Back in October, the Parliamentary Petitions Bureau confirmed that it was only the fifth petition to get a million signatures on the website, while it was the first time since the general election that the government had a petition that reached a million has exceeded signatures.
The #endchildfoodpoverty campaign is supported by the Child Food Poverty Task Force, founded by Rashford, 20 other charities and key names in the food industry.
The three recommendations are:
Extend free school meals to every child in a household with universal credit or equivalent to reach an additional 1.5 million children between the ages of seven and 16
Expanded vacation options (food and activities) to support all children with free school meals and reach an additional 1.1 million children
Upgrade the value of Healthy Start Vouchers to £ 4.25 per week (from £ 3.10) and expand to include any voucher with Universal Credit or equivalent to reach an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under four
Rashford continues to fight child food poverty
Earlier this month, Rashford wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for an “urgent review” of free school meals and stressing the need for reforms to keep the initiative going.
The joint letter, signed by dozens of people including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and actress Dame Emma Thompson, called for a policy review to be debated in parliament and released before the summer vacation.
Rashford thanked everyone involved for fighting child poverty, but said there was “so much to be done”.
The England striker added: “This year has shown us how dangerous and life changing many children’s access to food is and, frankly, too many children have fallen through cracks to be seriously left behind.
“It’s 2021. Our eyes are open. Now is the time for a full review of the Free School Meal System.”