As MPs debated a petition signed by more than 1.1 million people, calling for an end to child food poverty, big-hearted Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford said ‘in life there’s the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do’
Marcus Rashford tonight demanded help for those in need, as MPs geared up for a child food poverty debate triggered by the footballer.
The Manchester United and England star’s successful campaigning on youngsters’ hunger forced two Government U-turns over free school meals last year.
But asked if he would pursue a political career when he hangs up his boots, the 23-year-old claimed: “I don’t know anything about politics.”
Yet the big-hearted striker revealed his moral compass, telling Channel 4: “In life there’s the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do – and for me, it’s as simple as that.
“If somebody needs help, if you’re in a position to help them, you should help them.”
He was speaking as MPs debated a petition signed by more than 1.1 million people, calling for extra help for hard-up families.
Campaigners led by the footballer want three key planks of the National Food Strategy brought into force.
The petition which sparked tonight’s Westminster Hall debate read: “Government should support vulnerable children and #endchildfoodpoverty by implementing 3 recommendations from the National Food Strategy to expand access to Free School Meals, provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger and increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme.”
Backed by the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, the petition called for money to widen free school meals to all under-16s where a parent or guardian receives Universal Credit or an equivalent benefit, provide meals and activities during all school holidays, and increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week, and expand the scheme.
As politicians tussled for 90 minutes in Parliament, frustrated Marcus urged MPs to get on with helping kids.
He tweeted: “It’s confusing that we are debating the implementation of government-commissioned findings. Gov did the research. Gov gathered the data.
“And solutions were formed from that (NFS). I endorsed them…so what’s to debate? Let’s discuss the findings and discuss the solutions.”
Supporters of the blueprint believe adopting the three recommendations will help ease the plight of 4.3 million British children living in relative poverty, defined as being less than 60% of average household income
The Mirror has told how foodbank demand rocketed by a third in the 12 months to April as Trussell Trust centres handed out nearly 23 million meals.
The charity’s outlets gave away 2,537,198 emergency parcels – and with each package containing enough food for three meals a day for three days, it means the Trust provided 22,834,782 meals.
Nearly a million parcels went to children, meaning 8,820,738 kids’ meals were provided.
Labour MPs blamed the Tories for fuelling child poverty.
Shadow Minister Tulip Siddiq said: “More families than ever are having to rely on foodbanks to feed their children.
“This food poverty is a result of poverty itself, which has been rising dramatically since 2010.
“Rising levels of child poverty are a direct result of policy choices over the last decade.”
Labour’s Grahame Morris said: “This is the defining issue of our time.
“It’s not some happenstance that so many children have been driven into poverty.
“This is the result of Government policies.”
But Conservative backbencher Jerome Mayhew blamed family breakdown and drug-taking for some households being mired in poverty – and urged parents to take responsibility for their kids.
“As a parent myself, one of the key life lessons I try to give my own children is that of personal responsibility,” he said.
“Reasons for childhood hunger are complex and it will hamper our ability properly to address those causes if we choose for political or campaigning reasons to over-simplify them.
“They include unemployment, a sudden change of family income, chaotic finances, drug dependency, poor access to good quality food shops, poor food education, the breakdown of relationships and low pay in employment.”
Education Minister Vicky Ford said the Government had increased Healthy Start vouchers’ value to £4.25 a week and was providing holiday activities and free school meals out of term time this year.
“This Government is dedicated to supporting those children and families, especially the most vulnerable and the Government is fully considering all the recommendations of the National Food Strategy,” she said.
“We will respond more fully following the next and final report which is due in the summer.”
MPs also called for a £20-a-week rise in Universal Credit, which boosts six million families’ incomes by £1,040-a year, to be extended.
It was introduced at the start of the pandemic but is due to be axed from September.