Marcus Rashford teams up with food giants to tackle child food poverty

Manchester United player Marcus Rashford has formed a taskforce with some of the UK's biggest food brands to help reduce child food poverty in England.

Rashford, 22, has teamed up with Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, FareShare, Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg's, Lidl, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose to creae the Child Food Poverty Task Force.

Over the next six weeks, the task force members will dedicate their platforms to sharing stories of those most affected by child food insecurity in the UK.

Rashford, who has spoken about his own experience of using a food voucher scheme as a child was praised after pressing the government into making a U-turn on the issue.

In a letter to MPs, Rashford said the objective is to "see sufficient funds from the Chancellor's Budget and Spending Review allocated to implementing these without delay".

They include expanding the numbers who are eligible for free school meals - and offer them free food and activities during school holidays in England.

Rashford added: "When we pause, listen and reflect on what the future of our next generation could potentially look like, it's easy to see that if we don't take action quickly, the issue of child food poverty will have devastating effects on the stability of our country.

The taskforce is calling for three policy recommendations by the National Food Strategy to be funded by the government as soon as possible and include:

  • Expanding free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged seven to 16

  • The expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1m children.

  • Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers - which help parents with children under the age of four and pregnant women buy some basic foods - from £3.10 to £4.25 per week, and expanding it to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 people.

Mr Rashford said he was "confident" the group could help change lives "for the better".

"These children are the future - our next generation of NHS workers, police officers, footballers and politicians."

Rashford is hoping that, with a bigger team of experts around him, he might be able to help more children.

In England, around 1.3 million children claimed Free School Meals in 2019 - about 15% of state-educated pupils.

Last year, the government announced that it would start measuring food insecurity through its Family Resources Survey and that data would be available from 2021.

The footballer has met some of the families who have benefitted from the extended children's food voucher scheme, which he said had been an "unbelievable experience".

He stressed the importance of tackling the stigma around child food poverty, and changing attitudes about asking for help.

The U-turn enabled about 1.3m children in England to claim vouchers over the holidays, with the support working out at approximately £15 a week for each child.