Marcus Rashford: Food voucher campaign changed government policy

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Marcus Rashford on reversing the government's food voucher decision

Footballer Marcus Rashford says he wants to do more to help those in need after winning a battle to have a free school meal voucher scheme extended.

On Tuesday, a campaign started by the England and Manchester United footballer led to the government changing its mind about free food vouchers for families that struggled to afford meals.

It means some parents can now claim vouchers for about 1.3 million children in England during the summer holidays.

Marcus Rashford says his own experiences in childhood are the reason why he wanted to try to help people, and says the extension of the scheme has "bought an extra six weeks" to "figure out what's next".

"I don't want this to be the end of it because there are more steps that need to be taken," he said. "People are struggling all year around so we still need to learn more about the situation people are in and how we can help them best."

Speaking to the BBC, Marcus said: "It's not so much about my family anymore, because obviously the situation has changed. I just don't want people to go through the same things. It's important to understand where I came from and my background and then it's quite simple really the reason why I would try and help people that are in that situation."

Charities say research among 3,105 parents suggests half of families receiving universal credit or child tax credit in June had fallen behind with rent or other bills.

Seven in 10 of those surveyed for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and Save the Children said they had cut back on food and other essentials.

Obviously the areas that I've grown up in, I know a lot of families that would've still been going through it now.

Marcus Rashford
boris johnsonGetty Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Rashford to thank him for getting involved

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the England star's "contribution to the debate around poverty".

The Manchester United forward said he was "grateful that the prime minister did change his decision" and that, in a phone call, Mr Johnson had thanked him "for using what I've built in a positive manner".

The voucher scheme in England was brought in for families whose children would normally get free school dinners, the coronavirus lockdown meant many families had to spend more money to feed children, while they were encouraged to stay at home.

Marcus Rashford.Getty Images
Rashford says his mum called him 10 times after his campaign meant the government changed its decision over food vouchers

The scheme was due to end by the school summer holidays, but now, following Rashford's campaign, it now been extended for the six weeks when schools are normally off between July and September.

At the start of the week Rashford sent a letter to MPs (Members of Parliament) explaining how his mum had struggled to afford food for him when he was younger.

"My story to get here is all-too-familiar for families in England: my mum worked full-time, earning minimum wage to make sure we always had a good evening meal on the table. But it was not enough. The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked", the letter said.

Now that the government has changed its mind, Rashford said his mum is very proud: "She's rang me about 10 times today", he said.

It wasn't just Rashford's mum who sent him messages of support, rival football teams such as Manchester City and Liverpool congratulated the United striker.

"It's always been football, football, football and sometimes there are situations that come up, it puts football aside for a moment", Rashford said. "This was one of those situations really, that's the kind of support you want for the country to be a better place."

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