Marcus Rashford’s new fight against child hunger ‘pandemic’ as poverty worsens

The footballer said Wembley stadium could be filled 27 times over with the 2.5 million children in the UK that are struggling to know where their next meal is coming from

Footballer Marcus Rashford has forced the Government into U-turns over free school meals

England footballer Marcus Rashford is launching a major new campaign to tackle worsening food poverty ahead of the autumn Budget.

The Manchester United star and food campaigner, who has twice forced the Government into U-turns over free school meals, is urging the public to write to their MPs.

He warned that Wembley stadium could be filled 27 times over with the 2.5 million children in the UK that are struggling to know where their next meal is coming from.

And he revealed new figures which show that “devastatingly” child food poverty is getting worse, rather than better.

Rashford supports three major recommendations in the recent National Food Strategy, which was commissioned by Boris Johnson, but then dismissed by the Government.

These are expanding free school eligibility to more vulnerable children, providing long-term funding for holiday programmes and boosting ‘healthy start’ support for pregnant women and children under five.

Data from The Food Foundation shows that more households with children are experiencing food insecurity than in the first wave of the pandemic.

Marcus Rashford visiting FareShare Greater Manchester at New Smithfield Market


Fareshare/Mark Waugh/PA)

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A survey of 6,490 UK households found that 15% have experienced food insecurity in the past six months – levels that are approximately 27% higher than before the pandemic

Rashford called for the Government to prioritise tackling food poverty in the Autumn Spending Review, saying he would be writing to his MP about the issue – and encouraged others to do the same.

“Whilst we’ve come a long way in the last 20 months, placing the issue of child food poverty at the forefront, devastatingly, the issue is getting worse not better,” he said.

“The entire nation got behind the national team this Summer so let’s put these figures in football terms: You can fill 27 Wembley stadiums with the 2.5 million children that are struggling to know where their next meal might be coming from today.

“What is it going to take for these children to be prioritised? Instead of removing support through social security, we should be focusing efforts on developing a sustainable long-term roadmap out of this child hunger pandemic.

“It will take many of us to stand together on this, and show we care about reaching those most in need in our communities.”

Anna Taylor, of The Food Foundation, said: “It’s extremely distressing that now even more children lack a secure, nutritious diet compared with last year.

“Despite a sense of ‘normality’ returning, this is no time for complacency – we can’t sit back and allow this damage to our children’s health, learning and life chances, not to mention the heavy burden it bears on our NHS.

“We know children from deprived backgrounds have higher obesity rates, worse levels of diabetes, more tooth decay and even impaired height development compared with their wealthier peers.

“This will only get worse if left unaddressed and entrench inequalities deeper. So, today, we are asking Government to act appropriately to protect our youngest citizens.”

Rashford waged a high-profile campaign last year to persuade the Government to provide free meals to vulnerable youngsters in England throughout the school holidays during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing the Prime Minister into a U-turn.

The 23-year-old also became the youngest person to top the Sunday Times Giving List by raising £20 million in donations from supermarkets for groups tackling child poverty.

He also launched the Full Time cooking tutorials programme with chef Tom Kerridge, to offer recipe ideas for low-income families.

The campaign encourages the public to visit Rashford’s campaign website and follow the steps to write to their local MP.

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