Marcus Rashford: More than 800 people across Portsmouth area sign footballer's petition on child food poverty

MORE than 800 people across the area have signed a petition by footballer Marcus Rashford which calls on the government to tackle child food poverty.

By Millie Salkeld
Friday, 16th October 2020, 11:16 am
Updated Friday, 16th October 2020, 11:23 am
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United  (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

The Manchester United and England star wants the government to extend its free school meal programme to every child from a household on Universal Credit or an equivalent benefit and to provide food during the school holidays.

His petition has garnered more than 200,000 signatures since it went live yesterday morning, including 212 from Portsmouth, 189 from Fareham, 88 from Gosport, 140 from Havant and 179 in East Hampshire.

More than 19,000 children across the Portsmouth area were eligible for free schools meals in the last school year, figures from the Department for Education show.

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Rashford, who was recently awarded an MBE for services to vulnerable children, said: ‘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 footballer forced the government into a U-turn over holiday food vouchers during the pandemic earlier this year but Downing Street has rejected his latest call.

A No 10 spokesman said: ‘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.

‘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 petition also calls for Healthy Start vouchers – given to eligible women who are pregnant or those with young children to buy basic foods – to be raised from £3.10 to £4.25 per week and made available to all those on Universal Credit or a similar benefit.

A government-commissioned report published earlier this year said expanding the scheme in this way could reach an additional 1.5 million seven to 16-year-olds across England.

To sign the petition visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/554276/

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