Jamie Oliver has been campaigning against child food poverty since the release of his 2005 television series Jamie’s School Dinners. But the past year has seen him slowly passing the baton over to England footballer Marcus Rashford, whose campaigning on free school meals has caused social media storms and government U-turns. Years after Oliver transformed from chef to activist, it is astounding, however, that there still is a baton that needs to be passed on.
“Marcus has done a brilliant job making waves on this issue,” Oliver tells The Big Issue. “There’s also a lot of amazing stuff happening on the ground and that’s why, wherever possible, I’m trying to amplify other people’s voices.”
Speaking in the latest edition of The Big Issue magazine about the history of free school meals and the work left to do, Oliver says there is a groundswell of activism around food poverty and the right to food.
“Some absolutely amazing young campaigners are calling for change based on their own experiences and the food they see around them at school, online and on the high street,” he says.
“Bite Back 2030 is a youth movement I co-founded to empower future generations and they inspire me every single day. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the government listened to the young people who were actually affected by this stuff, rather than the people with the biggest ‘influence’ in the media?”
Rashford’s political campaigning began with an open letter to MPs asking them to reconsider the decision to suspend the free school meals programme over the summer holidays. The program had enabled pupils who would normally benefit from free school meals to receive shopping vouchers or food parcels if they were attending school from home during lockdown.