Marcus Rashford leads call for free school meal review

Last updated at 09:17
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Manchester United star Marcus Rashford has become one of the nation's biggest campaigners in the battle against food poverty.

Now, alongside a number of top celebrity chefs and individuals from various charities, campaign groups, health organisations and educational bodies, he's now calling on the government to update its free school meals policy so it works better for the families who rely on it in the long term.

The group has written a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson outlining their main concerns.

Chefs Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have all shown their support, along with actress Dame Emma Thompson.

What is the group asking for?
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Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have signed the letter to the government alongside Marcus Rashford

It comes after Boris Johnson called Marcus Rashford earlier this week when the footballer shared images of "completely unacceptable" food parcels that had been recently provided for families on social media.

The letter writers praised the "swift response" to the food parcels issue and but they added that "following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic", now was the time for a review.

The group wants the government to provide stronger national leadership on issues regarding children's food so the most disadvantaged children and families, many who have been badly affected throughout the coronavirus pandemic, are given the vital support they need.

It's asked for the review to be debated in Parliament and published before this year's summer holidays.

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Lots of families have had to rely on food banks throughout the coronavirus pandemic

The group believes the review of the government's current school meal policy will force the nation's leaders to put in place measures that will help children not just now, but also in the future.

It said it would "demonstrate the Government's commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan".

"We are ready and willing to support your government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support," the letter said.

"School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children.

"Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step."

What has the government said?
Marcus Rashford has spoken out on the importance of tackling food poverty

In response, a Downing Street spokesperson said: "It is great that celebrities and groups across society see the importance of school food. The PM thanks Marcus Rashford for his letter and will reply soon.

"School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of the most disadvantaged pupils. The prime minister has been clear that no child will ever go hungry as a result of the pandemic".

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