Boris Johnson Rejects Marcus Rashford’s Call For Free School Meals Over Christmas
Boris Johnson has rejected a call by England footballer Marcus Rashford for free school meal vouchers to be given to poor children over Christmas and other holidays.
As the Manchester United striker launched a new parliamentary petition demanding the move to reduce child hunger, a No.10 spokesperson made clear its policy would not change.
“We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic when schools were partially closed during lockdown. We’re in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils,” he said.
“It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays. We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.”
The Welsh government announced on Thursday that it would be going ahead with free school meal help for all its holidays up to Easter 2021, a move praised by Rashford.
But after being forced by the footballer to U-turn on the issue earlier this summer, Downing Street is now refusing to budge once more.
With his new petition, which looked on course to hit within just one day the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a Commons debate, Rashford was supported by 20 charities and key figures in the food industry.
It also calls for the provision of free meals to all households on Universal Credit, plus the extension of food vouchers to all low income pregnant women and pre-school youngsters.
The footballer, who was awarded an MBE last week for his role in helping deprived children, stepped up the pressure on the prime minister as new data released by the Food Foundation revealed that 1.4 million 8- to 17-year-olds visited foodbanks over the summer holidays.
Rashford said: “For too long this conversation has been delayed. Child food poverty in the UK is not a result of Covid-19. We must act with urgency to stabilise the households of our vulnerable children.
“In 2020, no child in the UK should be going to bed hungry, nor should they be sat in classrooms concerned about how their younger siblings are going to eat that day, or how they are going to access food come the holidays.
“The school holidays used to be a highlight of the year for children. Today, it is met with anxiety from those as young as seven.”
“Today, millions of children are finding themselves in the most vulnerable of environments and are beginning to question what it really means to be British. I’m calling on you all today to help me prove to them that being British is something to be proud of.”
Earlier, Louise Casey, a former homelessness adviser warned that people face “destitution” and may have to “prostitute themselves” without more Covid help.
Anna Taylor, executive director of Food Foundation, said: “School holidays are a financial pressure point which many families just can’t afford at the moment. Hunger does not take a holiday.”