Marcus Rashford has called on the government to reverse a decision not to provide free school meal vouchers during the summer, saying that “the system isn’t built for families like mine to succeed”.
The Manchester United and England forward has raised about £20m to supply three million meals to vulnerable people while working with charity FareShare UK during the coronavirus lockdown.
Campaigners have threatened to bring legal action against the government for not extending the food voucher scheme into the summer holidays.
In an emotional open letter to MPs drawing on his own experiences of relying on free school meals and food banks growing up, Rashford said his story is “all too familiar for families in England”.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast about the letter, Rashford, 22, said: “It’s written from the heart and it’s about how my life was at the moment – the letter is to open up and let people understand the impact on families and to know I’ve done the right thing.
“What families are going through now, I’ve once had to go through that – and it’s very difficult to find a way out. It’s very important for me to help people who are struggling. Whether the outcome changes or doesn’t change – that’s why I wrote it.”
Who qualifies for free school meals?
In England, about 1.3 million children from low income backgrounds are eligible for free school meals.
To qualify, their household must earn a maximum income of £7,400 a year after tax, not including any benefits. The full criteria is listed here.
A child who qualifies remains eligible until 31 March 2022, whether in primary or secondary education. Children from families who meet certain criteria can also be eligible for free school meals before they start school.
During the pandemic, the government says it expects schools to continue to support eligible children in term time. This includes:Food parcels
A national voucher scheme
Vouchers for a local shop or supermarket