Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford has written an emotional open letter to Members of Parliament in the UK, asking them to do more to stop child hunger.
During the coronavirus outbreak, the UK government offered meals or food vouchers to low-income families whose children were eligible for free school meals, an incentive that will not run in the summer holidays but one that Rashford has urged MPs to extend.
In the letter, the England international highlighted that 200,000 children had to skip meals during the coronavirus lockdown because their families couldn’t access sufficient food, according to charity Food Foundation.
“My story to get here is all too familiar for families in England,” 22-year-old Rashford, who grew up in a low-income family in Wythenshawe, Manchester, wrote in the letter.
“My mum worked full-time, earning minimum wage to make sure we always had a good evening meal on the table. But it was not enough. The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.
“As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind actions of neighbours and coaches. Food banks and soup kitchens were not alien to us; I recall very clearly our visits to Northern Moor to collect our Christmas dinners every year.”
Rashford has helped raise over £20 million ($25 million) in donations alongside food charity FareShare since March, reaching 1,280,000 children.
Having made his United debut at the age of 18, Rashford has gone on to score 64 goals in 201 appearances for the club, as well as earning 38 England caps.
“The Government has taken a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to the economy – I’m asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England,” Rashford concluded in his letter.
“I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity. Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holiday period and guarantee the extension.
“This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance. Please, while the eyes of the nation are on you, make the U-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority.”
Children in the UK have been returning to school since June 1, with some high school students returning from Monday.
“As schools open more widely, and their kitchens reopen, we expect schools to make food parcels available for collection or delivery for any children that are eligible for free school meals who are not yet able to return to school,” a spokesperson from the UK’s Department for Education said in a statement to CNN.
“Where this is not possible, schools can continue to offer vouchers to eligible pupils. Free school meals are ordinarily term time only, and the national voucher scheme will not run during the summer holidays.
“However, as announced this week by the Prime Minister, the local authority welfare assistance scheme will provide help to those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to the impact of Covid-19.
“Thousands of children will also receive additional support through our Holiday Activities and Food programme, which offers activities and free meals throughout the summer holidays.”