Lineker backs Rashford over school meals

Gary Lineker, the Labour Party and other prominent figures have joined footballer Marcus Rashford in calls for the Government to extend its free school meal voucher scheme through the summer holidays. The Manchester United and England star penned an open letter this week asking the Government to reverse its decision to cease the scheme – for which nearly 1.3 million children are eligible – outside of school term time. The 22-year-old has followed up with a column in The Times newspaper on Tuesday, addressing the meal voucher issue and the broader subject of childhood poverty. “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 ten years ago I was one of them.” While a Department for Education spokesman has said the national voucher scheme “will not run during the summer holidays”, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman says the Prime Minister will respond to Mr Rashford’s letter “as soon as he can”. The campaign received a further push on Monday night when Mr Lineker told BBC Newsnight he urged the Government to consider the struggles of impoverished families during the coronavirus crisis. It seems strange that we have to be in a position where we are desperately arguing to try to get young people fed, and stop them being hungry.” Meanwhile, the Labour Party say they will today use an opposition day debate in Parliament to call on the Government to continue to directly fund the provision of free school meals over the holidays. “Shamefully, children go hungry every year, but this summer will be especially difficult for many families as job losses and reduced incomes hit household budgets. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “If the Government is genuinely committed to social equity, it must extend the provision of free school meals to continue during the summer holidays.” Mr Rashford, who has raised £20 million to boost food distribution with the charity FareShare, has said he used food banks and received free meals during his underprivileged childhood in Manchester.