- Marcus Rashford has formed a task force aimed at ending UK child food poverty. Its members include major grocers such as Tesco, Aldi, and Waitrose, as well as food delivery firm Deliveroo.
- The group is campaigning for free school meals to be extended to a further 1.5 million children.
- UK food bank use has risen rapidly during the pandemic – especially among young people.
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Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford is working with major UK grocers in the next step of his campaign to end child food poverty.
In June, Rashford forced the British government to reverse a decision on free school meals and give children from low-income households food vouchers during the summer holidays. Now, the footballer has formed a task force with grocers including Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Waitrose, charities FareShare and Food Foundation, and food delivery service Deliveroo to campaign for a major expansion of the school meals scheme.
The group, known as the Child Food Poverty Task Force, is pushing the government to fund three policies recommended in July by the National Food Strategy, an independent review of UK food policy. They include bringing free school meals to all households on Universal Credit, a social security payment for low-income families. This would allow 1.5 million more children to claim free meals.
Around 1.3 million children from low-income households are eligible for free school meals in England, according to the BBC.
The task force is also campaigning for the strategy’s proposed expansion of the government’s Holiday Activity and Food Programme, which funds summer holiday clubs run by charities and community groups. It is also calling for higher-value healthy food vouchers for parents of young children from low-income households.
In an open letter to MPs published Tuesday, Rashford called for the funding “without delay.” Introducing these measures would be a “unifying step” towards finding a long-term solution to child poverty in the UK, the task force said in a video shared by its members on Twitter.
—Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) September 1, 2020
Task force members have also said they will raise awareness of child food poverty in the UK on their social media platforms over the next six weeks.
Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the restaurant chain Leon and leader of the National Food Strategy review, told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning that “only 1% of packed lunches have the nutritional value of a school meal,” and said children from low-income households typically east less nutritional packed lunches.
Throughout the pandemic, Rashford has campaigned against child food poverty in the UK. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government continued this service using food vouchers, but children were initially unable to claim these when schools shut during the summer holidays. After Rashford wrote an open letter to the government and launched a social media appeal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that children eligible for free school meals would get a six-week voucher for free meals during the holidays.
Total food bank use in the UK nearly doubled between February and April, research by the National Food Strategy shows. This rise comes mainly from children and young people.
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