Footballer Marcus Rashford has criticised the government after Downing Street dismissed his call to provide free school meals during all school holidays to end child hunger.

The Manchester United and England striker has launched a petition urging ministers to act, which has so far been signed by more than 100,000 people.

Among the steps it calls for is free school meals to be provided during all holidays and expanded to all households on Universal Credit.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays.
“We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than government subsidising meals.”

Here is an example of Universal Credit:

Reacting to the comment, Rashford wrote on Twitter: “Merry Christmas kids…
“It’s also not for food banks to feed millions of British children but here we are. 250% increase in food poverty and rising…
“This is not going away anytime soon and neither am I…”

Rashford was made an MBE for his services to vulnerable children last week in the Queen’s birthday honours.

It came after he forced the government into a U-turn earlier this year on free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils over the summer holidays.

The prime minister’s spokesman said circumstances had changed since then.
“We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic when schools were partially closed during lockdown,” he said.
“We’re in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils.”

The expansion of free school meals is one of three policy recommendations made by the National Food Strategy.

It also calls for an expansion of school holiday food and activities programmes to more families and an increase in the value of Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 a week to £4.25.
“For too long this conversation has been delayed,” Rashford said.
“Child food poverty in the UK is not a result of COVID-19.
“We must act with urgency to stabilise the households of our vulnerable children.”

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