Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has launched an online petition calling on the government to offer free school meals to more children.
The footballer wants officials to make such meals available to 1.5 million children who aren’t currently eligible.
"Covid-19 has been tough on us all but [the] government should ensure children don’t pay the price,” says Rashford.
Here is everything you need to know about the new campaign.
What does Rashford want?
The footballer is asking for the free school meals scheme to be extended to every child from a household receiving Universal Credit, or equivalent benefits.
Rashford says implementing his recommendation would make meals available to 1.5 million seven to 16 year olds who aren’t currently eligible.
At the moment, families on Universal Credit can only get free school meals for their children if their income is less than £7,400 a year.
The footballer is also asking for the value of Healthy Start vouchers, which give free milk and other produce to families with young children and pregnant mothers, to increase from £3.10 to £4.25 a week.
Rashford’s petitions states, "Government should support vulnerable children & #endchildfoodpoverty by implementing 3 recommendations from the National Food Strategy to expand access to Free School Meals, provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger & increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme.”
The petition also calls on the government to “provide meals and activities during all holidays.”
A total of 14 per cent of parents and 10 per cent of children have experienced food insecurity over the last six months, and 32 per cent of families have lost income as a direct result of Covid-19.
Demand at foodbanks is expected to be 61 per cent higher during this winter than last.
How do I sign the petition?
(Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
The petition - which is hosted on Parliament’s petitions website - can be found by clicking on this link.
At the time of writing, it has accrued over 24,000 signees. The government “responds to all petitions that get more than 10,000 signatures.”
Should it hit 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
Will the petition work?
Rashford has had previous successes in lobbying the government to act on free school meals.
Earlier in 2020, the 22 year old successfully campaigned against plans to halt a £15 per week scheme set up during lockdown to pay for the meals of children usually fed for free at school.
After forcing a government U-turn on the issue, the sporting star also formed the Child Food Poverty Task Force, which brought together 20 charities.
Rashford said, "For too long this conversation has been delayed. Child food poverty in the UK is not a result of Covid-19.
"In 2020, no child should be going to bed hungry, nor should they be sat in classrooms concerned about how their younger siblings are going to eat that day, or how they are going to access food come the holidays.
"Let's wrap arms around each other and stand together to say this is unacceptable, that we are united in protecting our children."
For his efforts, Rashford received an MBE as part of the Queen’s delayed Birthday Honours list.
This year’s list was postponed from June in order to include people - such as medical workers, fundraisers and volunteers - who have been instrumental in the Covid-19 effort.
It celebrated the selfless good deeds of big names as well as ordinary people during the pandemic, which saw delivery drivers drop off food and medicine to vulnerable people and health and care workers put themselves at risk to help their communities and beyond.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, the Scotsman