Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, whose grandmother came from St. Kitts, has formed a taskforce with some of the UK’s biggest food brands to try to help reduce child food poverty.
The 22-year-old Manchester United forward successfully campaigned to extend free school meals this summer.
He has written to MPs, outlining the help he feels some families still need.
They include expanding the numbers who are eligible for free school meals – and offer them free food and activities during school holidays in England.
Mr Rashford has spoken about his own experiences of using a food voucher scheme as a child and was praised for pressing the government into a U-turn on the issue.
The group of supermarkets, businesses and charities – including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, FareShare, Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – have formed a taskforce and backed proposals from the National Food Strategy, an independent review of UK food policy.
The taskforce is calling for three policy recommendations by the National Food Strategy to be funded by the government as soon as possible:
- Expanding free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged seven to 16
- Expanding an existing school holiday food and activities program to support all children on free school meals in all areas of England. instead of the current 50,000 children that are helped
- Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers – which help parents with children under the age of four and pregnant women buy some basic foods – from £3.10 to £4.25 per week, and expanding it to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 people
The taskforce says implementing the three recommendations would mark a “unifying step to identifying a long-term solution to child poverty in the UK”.
Tara Brown, 50, receives Universal Credit and disability allowance for her nine-year-old son, who has autism.
She says the voucher scheme has been “brilliant” because he eats what she calls a restrictive diet – so prefers consistent packed lunches to free cooked meals at his school in Essex.
“It’s been nice to be able to get it so that I know it’s not eating into my weekly food budget that I put aside for our evening meals,” she says.
She wants to see vouchers become a permanent option for parents.
“I think it should be down to parental choice as to whether the money goes direct to the school or if the money goes via a voucher [for packed lunches] to the parents,” she adds.
“For people that are, financially, in a much worse situation, who have children with this sort of avoidance of foods, then the voucher scheme has probably been an absolute godsend to them.”
Mr. Rashford said he was “confident” the group could help change lives “for the better”.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said the move to extend free school meals over the summer had been a “short-term solution” to stopping children from going hungry, but it “wasn’t going to work in the long run”.
“We had to think about the best way to do it, to think about how these families can eat long term and not have any issues,” he said.
Mr. Rashford is hoping that, with a bigger team of experts around him, he might be able to help more children.
“We wanted to do it the best way we could, introduce the best people into our group, and see if using them [we] can push it even more.”
Mr. Rashford has stressed the importance of tackling the stigma around child food poverty, and changing attitudes about asking for help.
He told the BBC: “I feel like at times people think they are being looked down on if they ask for help, and I think in this generation… that is something that should change.
“You should feel free if you want to ask for help for anything,” he said. “Hold your head up high and if you need help go and get help.”
The footballer has met some of the families who have benefitted from the extended children’s food voucher scheme, which he said had been an “unbelievable experience”.
“Just to see the smiles on their faces and to see how much it’s helped them, you know, made me happy,” he said. “It was good to see the parents laughing and smiling.”
Football star Marcus Rashford, has sent donations to the Children’s Home in Basseterre, St Kitts in January, 2020.
Barrels of goods were sent to the home, based on photos on social media platforms.
The Football star said “he couldn’t forget his roots and he’s proud to give back to the country where his grandmother Nana Henry is from.”\
But his football boots prove that he still has a thing for the islands. On one pair there is a Dutch flag on one boot, and the flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis on the other.
Marcus Rashford was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester, and is of Kittitian descent.
[Credit BBC News].