Activism

Jamie Oliver: 'Marcus Rashford has done a brilliant job'

In a year when national health has been at the forefront like never before, it begs the question why the UK still relies on celebrity campaigners to 'raise awareness' of issues such as food poverty.

Jamie Oliver at Union Square in 2008. He has been campaigning around child food poverty since 2005. Image: thebeav/Flickr

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.

In the face of Rashford’s campaign, the Government retreated and launched a £120 million Covid summer food fund which enabled schools to order a £90 or £105 voucher per pupil depending on the length of the school’s holiday.

Rashford continued to campaign. In September he formed the Child Food Poverty Task Force with UK food brands and supermarkets aiming to expand holiday provision, as well as extending the free school meal programme to encompass all those whose families receive Universal Credit.

Rashford then provoked a second government U-turn in November with the launch of the winter grant scheme. The government initiative dedicated £170 million to supporting vulnerable families over winter and an expansion of the Holiday and Activities Food programme across Easter, Summer and Christmas 2021.

Oliver says: “The past year has shown us how important health and resilience are to each and every one of us, and I believe we have a collective responsibility to ensure our children have the best start in life.”

Since Oliver’s Jamie’s School Dinners, he has launched a number of campaigns on childhood obesity, including the #Adenough campaign, and his current Food Revolution aiming to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

The pair continue to campaign and were both signatories on a letter to Boris Johnson sent at the start of the year demanding concrete action following the mayhem of the free school meals system.

Read more from the interview in the latest edition of The Big Issue, available from your local vendor.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
France is booting homeless migrants out of Paris ahead of the Olympics – but some are fighting back
Paris Olympics 2024

France is booting homeless migrants out of Paris ahead of the Olympics – but some are fighting back

Hefty jail terms for Just Stop Oil activists 'set a terrible example for the rest of the world'
Traffic on the M25 during a Just Stop Oil protest
Climate activism

Hefty jail terms for Just Stop Oil activists 'set a terrible example for the rest of the world'

DWP Jobcentre security guards 'suffer' and turn to food banks as wages fail to cover basics
dwp jobcentre security guards on the picket line
Department for Work and Pensions

DWP Jobcentre security guards 'suffer' and turn to food banks as wages fail to cover basics

Malala Yousafzai on taking on the Taliban and why 'storytelling is the soul of activism'
Malala Yousafzai
Activism

Malala Yousafzai on taking on the Taliban and why 'storytelling is the soul of activism'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know

Support our vendors with a subscription

For each subscription to the magazine, we’ll provide a vendor with a reusable water bottle, making it easier for them to access cold water on hot days.