Boris Johnson u-turns on free school meals in summer after Marcus Rashford campaign
The UK Government will create a £120m voucher scheme to help families whose children receive free school meals with the cost of food over the six-week holiday period, as a one-off emergency response to the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Rashford, 22, responded by tweeting: "I don't even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020."
The announcement came shortly after Nicola Sturgeon confirmed £12m of funding to provide free school meals through the summer for pupils in Scotland.
Mr Rashford wrote an open letter to MPs this week urging the Government to reverse its decision not to award free school meals vouchers in England outside of term time for nearly 1.3 million eligible children.
The Manchester United and England forward kept up his campaign with an impassioned article in The Times, detailing his experience of growing up using food banks and receiving free meals as a child.
This morning he posted on twitter: "When you wake up this morning and run your shower, take a second to think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown."
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey responded: "Water cannot be disconnected though."
The Cabinet minister was widely criticised and Rashford replied: "I'm concerned this is the only tweet of mine you acknowledged. Please, put rivalries aside for a second, and make a difference."
Ministers and Conservative MPs had been sent out to defend the government’s stance that free school meals should be restricted to term time.
But after 24 hours of public pressure, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Owing to the coronavirus pandemic the Prime Minister fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer.
"To reflect this we will be providing a Covid Summer Food Fund. This will provide food vouchers covering the six-week holiday period. This is a specific measure to reflect the unique circumstances of the pandemic.
"The scheme will not continue beyond the summer and those eligible will be those who already qualify for free school meals."
The Prime Minister's spokesperson added: "The PM welcomes [Mr Rashford’s] contribution to the debate around poverty and respects the fact that he has been using his profile as a leading sportsman to highlight important issues."
The footballer has raised £20million to boost food distribution with the charity FareShare during the pandemic.
Mr Rashford wrote in The Times: "Today I focus on a trophy that stands for something much bigger than football.
"A U-turn on the decision to stop the free food voucher scheme continuing over the summer holidays could help us reach the next round but we still have a very long way to go as a country to eventually lift the trophy.
"In this case, the trophy is combating child poverty.
"I don't claim to have the education of an MP in parliament, but I do have a social education. I am clued up on the difference a U-turn decision would make on the 1.3 million vulnerable children across the UK who are registered for free school meals because 10 years ago I was one of them."
Several Conservative MPs had backed Mr Rashford’s call, and he also received the support of former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who tweeted that she was “baffled why [Westminster] colleagues are picking this hill to die on. I didn't have or need free school meals, but I went to a school where a huge percentage did.
“Food security during the holidays is so important. It's basic. Feed the kids.”
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