Manchester United’s number 10 managed to bend Boris Johnson to keep free meals going during the school holidays.
Marcus Rashford, then aged just over 20, spoke out in October 2019 against the plight of disadvantaged children and petitioned 10 Downing Street in the UK Parliament to ‘end child poverty: no child should go hungry.’
At that time, the Covid pandemic was worsening an already dramatic situation (in 2019, 30% of children were living below the poverty line in England, and in some parts of London, the figure was over 40%). The Manchester United striker had a very concrete plan in mind. Free meals for the poorest households were only available to children up to their second year of primary school and were not available during the holidays.
He then called on the government to extend free meal vouchers to all parents of children up to the age of 16 who are on benefits, to continue to provide these vouchers during the school holidays, and to increase the value of ‘health vouchers’ for pregnant women by at least £4.25 per week.
The footballer’s petition gained 250,000 signatures in two days and almost 800,000 in just one week! Raised on free meals Marcus gave an interview to the BBC, telling how he was raised on free meals by a single mother. Boris Johnson initially refused the footballer’s request, but within 48 hours, he had done an about-face, agreeing to extend the free meals over the summer holidays!