On June 5, the Department of Education told BBC News that free meal vouchers would not continue over the summer in the UK, despite being made available during the Easter holidays as the country coped with the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, eligible pupils received vouchers worth £15 a week. Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford has written an open letter to parliament, calling for the government to rethink this decision as it would leave thousands of vulnerable families at risk, he says.
“As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind of actions of neighbours and coaches,” he wrote in the moving letter which he shared on Instagram. “Food banks and soup kitchens were not alien to us; I recall very clearly our visits to Northern Morr to collect our Christmas dinners every year.”
Rashford, who partnered with food charity FareShare and “raised about £20m to supply three million meals to vulnerable people” during the lockdown, per BBC Sport, made clear that the government needs to understand the detrimental impact this decision could have on communities across the country.
“Ten years ago, I would have been one of those children, and you would never have heard my voice and seen my determination to become part of the solution,” Rashford continued. “This is not about politics; this is about humanity. Looking at ourselves in the mirror and feeling like we did everything we could protect for those who can’t, for whatever reason or circumstance, protect themselves.”
“Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry.”
A survey conducted by the Food Foundation in May found that “more than 200,000 children have had to skip meals because their family couldn’t access sufficient food during lockdown,” with an additional statistic by the Trussell Trust reporting that there was an 121% increase in demand from children for food bank services.
“As a Black man from a low-income family in Wythenshaw, Manchester, I could have been just another statistic,” he added. “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.”