One Million People Back Marcus Rashford's Petition To Extend Free School Meals

Jasmin Gray and Graeme Demianyk
·3-min read

A petition created by footballer Marcus Rashford urging the government to provide free meals for the poorest children during school holidays has been signed more than a million times.

It is only the fifth petition to have ever reached one million signatures on the government petitions website.

Marcus Rashford petition  (Photo: Gov.UK )
Marcus Rashford petition (Photo: Gov.UK )

The England and Manchester United forward – who was made an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for his work on child hunger – has also called on Boris Johnson to expand the free school meals programme to more children.

In recent days, the prime minister and his government have faced a huge backlash from the public after the Conservative Party voted down Labour’s motion to implement Rashford’s plan and fund free school meals out of term-time.

<strong>Marcus Rashford in action during the UEFA Champions League Group H match at Old Trafford, Manchester.</strong> (Photo: PA)
Marcus Rashford in action during the UEFA Champions League Group H match at Old Trafford, Manchester. (Photo: PA)

The sportsman capped off a remarkable day when he scored his first Manchester United hat-trick and inspired his team to a 5-0 win in the Champions League against RB Leipzig.

Following the game, Rashford said he “can’t stop smiling” as his petition to extend free meals for children into the school holidays passed 1,000,000 signatures.

Also referencing Manchester United’s win against RB Leipzig, Rashford wrote on Twitter: “3 goals, 16 minutes, 1,030,000 signatures.

“Can’t stop smiling, I’ve waited a long time for that. Just wish the fans were in to experience it with me.”

The anti-hunger campaigner is to be given the City of Manchester Award on top of his MBE for his work to tackle child poverty.

Rashford was born in Manchester and raised in the Wythenshawe area of the city. Wythenshawe councillor Tommy Judge, who will give the award as his first act in his new role as lord mayor of Manchester, said it was “remarkable” to see him “give a voice to the powerless”.

The Tories have argued that there is a “whole range of additional support” to make sure children and their families don’t go hungry during the pandemic, as well as alleging that feeding children outside term-time would mean “nationalising children” and suggesting free school meal vouchers “effectively” go to brothels and crack dens.

Hundreds of local businesses and councils have stepped in to fill the gap over the October half term – which began on Monday – volunteering free meals for those in need.

In the wake of the vote in the Commons, 22-year-old Rashford said people must not allow their views to be clouded by politics.

Boris Johnson gestures as he holds a plate of cooked food during his visit to Royal Berkshire NHS Hospital (Photo: JEREMY SELWYN via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson gestures as he holds a plate of cooked food during his visit to Royal Berkshire NHS Hospital (Photo: JEREMY SELWYN via Getty Images)

“We talk about the devastating impact of Covid-19 but, if projections are anything to go by, child food poverty has the potential to become the greatest pandemic the country has ever faced,” he wrote on Twitter.

“We must start working together and unite to protect our most vulnerable children.”

Related...

Tory MPs Vote Down Labour Motion To Implement Marcus Rashford Free School Meals Plan

Boris Johnson Faces Growing Tory Rebellion Over Free School Meals

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.