Marcus Rashford: Parliamentary Committee to hear evidence following child food poverty petition

Marcus Rashford's petition to 'end child food poverty' received more than 1.1m signatures; the Petitions Committee will hear evidence on Thursday; Rashford successfully campaigned on several occasions last year to get the Government to give food vouchers to disadvantaged children

Marcus Rashford has been valued at £150.1m by CIES Football Observatory
Image: Marcus Rashford launched the petition titled 'End child food poverty - no child should be going hungry' back in October

The House of Commons' Petitions Committee will hear evidence on Thursday after Marcus Rashford's campaigning on child food poverty in the UK brought about a petition which has received more than 1.1m signatures.

The petition titled 'End child food poverty - no child should be going hungry' was launched by the Manchester United and England striker back in October, and passed the one-million milestone on October 28.

Rashford successfully campaigned on several occasions last year to get the Government to give food vouchers to disadvantaged children, first over the summer and again at Christmas, and the petition calls on the Government to allocate sufficient budget to three National Food Strategy recommendations.

The 23-year-old has been awarded an MBE for his work so far, while he was also recognised by the Football Writers' Association as the latest recipient of their Tribute Award, and ahead of Thursday's evidence session, the forward spoke with Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP.

"I think we need baselines, so if you make sure that, for example, all children in the UK are guaranteed a meal a day. It will take a lot of stress off the parents," Rashford said.

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After being recognised by the Football Writers' Association for his achievements on and off the pitch, Rashford has won the praise of Sir Alex Ferguson

"When you're a child, you don't think about it. I remember when I was younger I just used to play out all day, and then I'd go home and if there was food there, I'd eat it. If there wasn't, I'd go to sleep.

"You just get on with your day, but the long-term effect is they're missing out on a lot of vital stuff."

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The chief executive of charity FareShare, Lindsay Boswell, will be among those providing evidence on Thursday. Rashford has been an ambassador of FareShare since March last year.

The Committee will also hear from representatives from The Trussell Trust, The Children's Society, and The Food Foundation regarding their views on how the Government can build on its winter support package for vulnerable families.

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Rashford is not resting on his laurels in his quest for a better life for children in the UK, insisting he is on a 'long journey' to make lasting change

Back in October, the Parliamentary Petitions office confirmed that it was only the fifth petition to have reached one million signatures on the website, while it was the first time since the general election that the Government had been presented with a petition that has exceeded one million signatures.

The #endchildfoodpoverty campaign is supported by the Child Food Poverty Task Force, which was formed by Rashford, a further 20 charities, and key names in the food industry.

The three recommendations are:

  • Expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged between seven and 16

  • Expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1m children

  • Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week (from £3.10) and expanding into all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under the age of four

Rashford continues fight to end child food poverty

Earlier this month, Rashford wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call for an "urgent review" on free school meals, stressing a need for reform to keep the initiative going for the long-term.

The joint letter, signed by dozens including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and actress Dame Emma Thompson, called for a policy review to be debated in parliament and published before the summer holidays.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is grateful to Rashford for highlighting 'disgraceful' free school meal parcels

Rashford has thanked everyone involved in the drive to end child food poverty, but said there was still "so much work to be done".

The England striker added: "This year has shown us how dangerous and life-altering many children's access to food is and frankly too many children have been falling through the cracks, at risk of being seriously left behind.

"It's 2021. Our eyes are open. Now is the time for a full major review of the Free School Meal system."

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