London (AFP) – Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has joined forces with major supermarkets and food providers in Britain to form a taskforce to help fight child food poverty.
The England striker’s campaign pressured the UK government into a U-turn in June to provide free school meal vouchers to pupils over the summer holidays.
As schools across England return this week, the 22-year-old said his initial campaign was a short-term fix and that the “Child Food Poverty Task Force” will promote longer-term solutions.
Retailers and food manufacturers including Aldi, Lidl, Kellogg’s and Tesco will offer their expertise and reach by dedicating their platforms over the next six weeks to sharing stories of those most affected by child food insecurity in the UK.
Rashford has spoken about his own experience of using food vouchers growing up in a low-income household and wants to help remove the stigma of asking for help.
“I feel like at times people think they are being looked down on if they ask for help,” he told the BBC.
“You should feel free if you want to ask for help for anything. Hold your head up high and if you need help go and get help.”
Rashford said the task force is endorsing three national food strategy policy recommendations.
These would increase the number of children entitled to free school meals by 1.5 million, provide support during school holidays to an extra 1.1 million and increase the value of food vouchers by just over £1 a week to help an additional 290,000 children under the age of four.
“It’s easy to see that if we don’t take action quickly, the issue of child food poverty will have devastating effects on the stability of our country,” Rashford said in a letter to members of the British parliament.
“I spoke to a mother recently who, along with her two young sons, is currently living off three slices of bread a day – soaking them in hot water and adding sugar, hoping that the porridge consistency might better sustain the hunger of her one-year-old child.
“I spoke to a family who were sleeping on one mattress on the floor – the reason being, just like any good parent would, they had had no choice but to sell every valuable they owned to put food on the table for their children.
“All of this, a result of unforeseen circumstances that are entirely out of their control, such as redundancy and illness.
“This is the true reality of England in 2020.”
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