Marcus Rashford petition urging Government to give free school meals during half-term and Christmas holidays hits 250k

MARCUS Rashford’s petition demanding the government take action to end child poverty has broken 250,000 signatures in just TWO days.

The footballer’s parliamentary petition lobbies for food to be provided during all holidays and for free school meals to be provided to all families and households on Universal Credit.

By 1.30pm today, the petition had the backing of quarter of a million people – with no signs of it slowing down.

As with other parliamentary petitions, Rashford needs 100,000 signatures to spark a debate by MPs.

The campaigning footie ace urged all Brits to sign up as “whatever your feeling, opinion, or judgement, food poverty is never the child’s fault.”

Calling on more people to sign the petition, the England and Manchester United striker, 22, said: "Let's prove to these 1.5 million vulnerable children that being British is something to be proud of."

The petition comes in reaction to Downing Street saying kids won't get free school meals over the half-term break and Christmas holidays.

No10 has ignored Rashford's plea to extend the scheme which helped 1.5 million poor kids stay well fed during lockdown.

During lockdown, the England star put massive pressure on Boris Johnson to help kids entitled to free school meals get vouchers worth £15 every week of half-term and the summer holidays.

And Mr Rashford has been behind a fresh push to extend the vouchers for hungry kids during the October half-term and the Christmas holiday.

But a Downing Street spokesperson said: "We are in a different position now.

“It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays."

Mr Rashford slammed Downing Street's rejection on Twitter: "Merry Christmas kids…

"It's also not for food banks to feed millions of British children but here we are. 250% increase in food poverty and rising…

"This is not going away anytime soon and neither am I…"

Senior Tory MP and Chairman of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon said Mr Johnson and the Department for Education need to urgently reconsider the policy, warning soaring unemployment rates will leave kids hungry.

He told The Sun: "I would urge the Prime Minister and the Department for Education to reconsider this.

"We know that the Office for Budget Responsible have forecast over 13 per centrise in unemployment, making 336,500 more working adults food insecure.

"The Government are doing some good things, but there needs to be a long term plan for combatting child hunger, starting with free school meal vouchers during half-term and Christmas.

He added: "If the bean counters at the Department for Education are worried about finances – if you feed children properly, you increase education and life outcomes.

"The Government ends up saving a lot of money when they don't have to make other significant interventions."

Labour have also called on the Government to provide free school meals during the holidays until next spring.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said "now is the time to act" as she warned more than a million children could be left hungry over the school holidays due to the impact of the pandemic.

Her party is giving the Government just 72 hours to extend the provision of free school meals during the holidays or it will force a vote by MPs.

Ms Green said: "Millions of families face the prospect of losing their livelihoods because the Government has lost control of the virus.

"Its sink-or-swim plans for support could leave more than one million children at risk of going hungry over the school holidays."

The petition comes just days after the millionaire Man Utd forward was given an MBE by the PM for his work tackling child food poverty.

In England there are more than 1.5 million children who can for free school meals – making up about 15 per cent of state school kids.

But Mr Rashford says that should be doubled.

And he wants the scheme extended to cover the October half term holidays in the short run, but is leading a longer campaign to eradicate child hunger for good.

His End Child Food Poverty movement has been backed by dozens of food firms, charities and celebs.

CHILD POVERTY MISSION

Last night he said: “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.”

“Right now, a generation who have already been penalised during this pandemic with lack of access to educational resources are now back in school struggling to concentrate due to worry and the sound of their rumbling stomachs.”

He added: “Let’s protect our young. Let’s wrap arms around each other and stand together to say that this is unacceptable, that we are united in protecting our children.


“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.”

And actress Dame Emma Thompson backed his campaign saying: “There is absolutely no need for any child to go hungry in the UK.

"The fact that they are and in increasing numbers suggests cracks in a broken food system that can and must be repaired as a matter of the utmost urgency.

"Apart from the moral duty we owe to children, this is a severe public health problem.”

Readers can sign the petition here.

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