MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford has asked the government to continue providing free meals for vulnerable children during the school holidays.
When schools were shut down in March as part of the coronavirus lockdown, a food voucher scheme was set up to guarantee meals to children who had been reliant on food being provided at schools. Vouchers worth 15 pounds ($19) are available to spend each week in supermarkets.
In a letter to members of the House of Commons, Rashford expressed concern about the scheme being due to end next month.
“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 wrote. “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.”
Growing up in the northern city of Manchester, Rashford relied on breakfast clubs and free school meals. He does not want other children to miss out on opportunities if they do not have access to similar schemes.
“As a black man from a low-income family in Wythenshawe, Manchester, I could have been just another statistic,” the England international wrote. “Instead, due to the selfless actions of my mum, my family, my neighbors, and my coaches, the only stats I’m associated with are goals, appearances and caps.
“I would be doing myself, my family and my community an injustice if I didn’t stand here today with my voice and my platform and ask you for help.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced 63 million pounds in a local welfare assistance fund to help “the most vulnerable families” but the opposition Labour Party said it only amounted to just over half the 115 million pounds it would have cost to extend the school meal voucher scheme over the summer.