Marcus Rashford wins fight for free school meals as Boris Johnson forced into U-turn

The Government is extending its free school meal voucher scheme through a £120 million Covid Summer Food Fund, Downing Street said, following a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 1:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 1:45 pm
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: “Owing to the coronavirus pandemic the Prime Minister fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer.

“To reflect this we will be providing a Covid Summer Food Fund.

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“This will provide food vouchers covering the six-week holiday period.

“This is a specific measure to reflect the unique circumstances of the pandemic.

“The scheme will not continue beyond the summer and those eligible will be those who already qualify for free school meals.”

The PM's spokesman said: “It's our intention to get all pupils back into school in September.”

It is understood payment will be through a one-off six week voucher given to eligible families at the end of term to use in supermarkets.

Rashford issued a public plea to the Government to extend the free school meals scheme, drawing upon his own experiences as a child.

It came after the scheme looked set to be scrapped over the summer, leaving 1.3 million children hungry.

In a letter to MPs posted, Rashford referred to his own experience of relying on free school meals and food banks growing up.

He has gone on to achieve fame and fortune as a Manchester United player and has also represented England.

Referring to Mr Rashford, he said: “The PM welcomes his contribution to the debate around poverty and respects the fact that he has been using his profile as a leading sportsman to highlight important issues.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: "This is another welcome u-turn from Boris Johnson.

“The thought of 1.3 million children going hungry this summer was unimaginable.

"Well done to Marcus Rashford and many others who spoke out so powerfully about this issue. Holidays Without Hunger.”

Downing Street said the vouchers would amount to £15 a week per child.

The PM's spokesman said: “This is a specific measure over the summer.”