Marcus Rashford: In excess of one million people have now signed petition to extend free school meals

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In excess of one million people have now signed Marcus Rashford's petition calling for the government to take action and extend free school meals.

The number of signatories stands at 1,097,512 at the time of writing, as the petition begins its assault on it's next million signatures. But beyond the numbers, the support for Rashford's campaign has been overwhelming.

Close to two weeks ago the measures outlined in Rashford's petition were backed by the Labour party. However, Rashord and many others, including some members of the Conservative party, were left disappointed after the bid to extend free school meals over the half term was defeated in Parliament by 322 votes to 261 - a majority of 61.

The bid sought to offer disadvantaged children £15 a week food vouchers to see them through the break. The rejection however was met with considerable frustration from significant portions of the public. OBV Director Lord Woolley was among those to join the call for action to be taken to amend the situation. He asked for a unified party group to include the likes of Rashford, FareshareUK and Trussell Trust with the aim of working to formalize a long term strategy to address the issue.

Latest official figures showed 1.4 million children in England were on free school meals in 2018-19

The news saw widespread reaction from charities, local councils and restaurants who banded together to support the drive to fund free school vouchers over the holidays.

The petition itself highlights a number of notable statistics in support of it's claim. It states that 14% of parents & 10% of children have experienced food insecurity over the last 6 months. It adds that 32% of families have lost income as a result of Covid-19, and that demand for food banks this winter is predicted to be 61% higher than last

Rashford who is undertaking his work with the Child Food Poverty Taskforce is calling for Government to allocate money to:

  • Expand free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit
  • Provide meals & activities during all holidays.
  • Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week, and expand the scheme.

We await to see how this story will develop, but large swathes of the population will be wishing Rashford and all those who have joined the call to end child food poverty continued strength in the push for change.

Mayowa Ayodele

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