Marcus Rashford says ‘time is now’ to end child food poverty

The Manchester United footballer has become a champion for cash-strapped Brits during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now he is enlisting the help of 12 food organisations to ensure children are fed

Marcus Rashford has stepped up his battle to ensure children don’t go hungry in the UK as he announced the formation of the Child Food Poverty Task Force.

The Manchester United striker has taken a leading role in ensuring that the Covid-19 pandemic does not mean more children share his poverty-hit upbringing. Rashford successfully lobbied the government to inspire a U-turn on plans to end support for summer school meal vouchers in June.

And, in the week when the England football team are due to return to the pitch, Rashford is front and centre of it, acting as the figurehead for the newly announced task force.

Rashford has brought together supermarkets and food shops Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose as well as food manufacturers Kellogg’s and food charities FareShare and Food Foundation as well as Deliveroo to back his campaigning.

The 22-year-old’s new team are demanding that the government expand their free school meal offering to reach an additional 1.5 million seven-to-16 year olds by including households on Universal Credit or equivalent.

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The task force also wants to bolster holiday provision for kids on free school meals, helping 1.1 million more children as well as increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week, up from £3.10, to reach an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under the age of four.

To strengthen their case ahead of the Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review, the task force will use their online platforms to share stories of those affected by child food insecurity across the UK. This is just as Rashford did at the start of the summer when he told stories of relying on a Wythenshaw foodbank.

The task force will also provide real-time statistics with fears that the economic impact of Covid-19 will mean more children will be living in poverty than the 4.2 million struggling to get by pre-pandemic.

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Rashford, who starred on the cover of The Big Issue earlier this year following his campaigning efforts, said: “As a sportsman, I have always found such power in unity and teamwork, and I’m thrilled that such influential voices have put any allegiance aside to join me on my mission to move the conversation of child food poverty forward. 4.2 million children were living in poverty in the UK prior to Covid-19 and this is expected to have risen; the Task Force stand together to offer these vulnerable children the platform they need to have their voices heard.

“I encourage everyone to stop and listen. The time for action is now. I’m proud and I’m humbled to see such a reaction and commitment from the food industry, and I am confident that together we can help change the lives of those most vulnerable for the better.”

Prior to taking on the government over school meal vouchers, Rashford was the face of Fareshare, fronting their plea for donations at the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Lindsay Boswell, FareShare chief executive, said: “The reality is millions of children and families nationwide were struggling to afford to eat before the pandemic, and the effect of Covid-19 on communities will only have exacerbated the problem and plunged thousands more families into hardship.

“We are grateful to Marcus for his continued support of FareShare and for bravely shining a light on such an important issue, and look forward to working with him and the Task Force in the coming weeks to change the state of child hunger in the UK.”