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Rashford petition to end child food poverty hits 1m signatures

The Manchester United and England star has been campaigning to have free school meals extended

More than one million people have signed an online petition from Marcus Rashford’s Child Food Poverty Taskforce calling on the Government to extend the free school meals scheme.

The petition on the Parliament website hit the million mark after two weeks and marks the latest development in an ongoing row between the Government and the 22-year-old England and Manchester United star over child food poverty.

Rashford, who has said he “lived through” some of the problems struggling families are facing, was awarded an MBE in July after forcing a government u-turn over the provision of free school meals during the summer holidays.

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“Let’s take a second to remember that a lot of families in need will not have access to the internet,” he said, promoting the petition in the hours before the milestone was reached. “They can’t sign petitions or scroll down my twitter. Their voices cannot be heard so we have to use ours to communicate on all of this amazing local help. Thank you all.”

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Anna Taylor, executive director of Taskforce member Food Foundation, said: “The petition shows just how many citizens want a lasting solution to child hunger. 

“The Government must act without delay and implement the three recommendations in the National Food Strategy.”

As well as extending free school meals to all children under 16 with parents on Universal Credit or similar benefits, the Taskforce is asking the Government to provide meals and activities during school holidays and expand the Healthy Start scheme, which helps struggling parents by providing nutritious food for their children.

Campaigners, charities, supermarkets and food manufacturers have all joined the Child Food Poverty Taskforce.

Labour put forward the recommendations in Parliament but the proposals were voted down.

After the vote, more than 1,000 business and organisations offered to supply free meals to hungry kids over half term, collected by volunteers in an interactive free school meals map.

Dev Sharma, a 15-year-old ambassador for the Right2Food charity, said: “We have been campaigning for over three years now to get the Government to address this crisis that so many young people are facing across the UK. 

“Today we have Marcus Rashford and one million people standing together demanding change. Young people deserve access to a healthy and affordable diet all year around regardless of where they live or what background they come from.”

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