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Marcus Rashford calls on MPs to make U-turn on free school meals
15 June 2020, 08:47 | Updated: 15 June 2020, 08:54
Footballer Marcus Rashford has called on the government to extend the current food voucher scheme for children who receive free school meals into the summer holidays.
The scheme was set up to effectively guarantee meals to those children who would have ordinarily been reliant on free meals during the coronavirus lockdown.
But Manchester United and England forward Rashford, who raised £20million to boost food distribution with the charity FareShare, is concerned the plan to end the scheme next month will affect some of the most vulnerable in society.
In an open letter to the government, the 22-year-old wrote: "The Government has taken a 'whatever it takes' approach to the economy - I'm asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England.
"I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity. Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holiday period and guarantee the extension.
"This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance.
"Please, while the eyes of the nation are on you, make the U-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority."
Rashford has previously spoken about how his family relied on breakfast clubs and free school meals as a child, and does not want other children to miss out on opportunities if they do not have access to similar schemes.
He added: "As a black man from a low-income family in Wythenshawe, Manchester, I could have been just another statistic.
"Instead, due to the selfless actions of my mum, my family, my neighbours, and my coaches, the only stats I'm associated with are goals, appearances and caps.
"I would be doing myself, my family and my community an injustice if I didn't stand here today with my voice and my platform and ask you for help."
Small business minister Paul Scully was asked how the Government would respond to Rashford's plea.
He described the Manchester United player as an "inspirational figure," and said: "What we've done is put nine million pounds into summer activities, which clearly if people with children are at these activities they will get fed within that as well.
"We're also bringing in £63 million worth of support to local authorities, for hardship funds, to make sure that people who do struggle can actually get access to a decent meal."