Marcus Rashford urges families to use £220m school holiday programme
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
England striker and food poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford is fronting a campaign to encourage parents to sign up for the government’s £220m holiday activities and food programme.
The programme offers food and activities for pupils during the school holidays, with free places for pupils eligible for free school meals.
The campaign features a film launched by charity Food Foundation, which has released the results of a survey of more than 2,000 parents.
It found that 30 per cent of parents of school-aged children are concerned about feeding their family over the summer holidays and the proportion increases to 49 per cent among parents of eight- to 16-year-olds eligible for free school meals.
However, awareness of the programme is limited among many parents. The Foundation found that less than a quarter (24 per cent) of parents have heard of the holiday activities and food programme.
Less than half (43 per cent) of parents with children eligible for free school meals are aware of the scheme.
“I know only too well that the holidays can be a really difficult time for families who are struggling,” said Rashford.
“It’s such a weight off their shoulders to know that there is a safe space for their children to go, where their minds can be stimulated, and where they are guaranteed at least one meal a day.”
The film also features pupils and was filmed at schools in Leeds, London and Button Lane primary school in Manchester, where Rashford went to school.
“The pandemic has hit the most vulnerable and disadvantaged the hardest, with food poverty at the heart of the difficulties for many families,” said Food Foundation chief executive Anna Taylor.
“It’s absolutely crucial that we are supporting our young people so that they can overcome these challenges and thrive.”
Children and Families minister Vicky Ford added that the programme aims to “provide nutritious food, as well as activities like arts and crafts, sport, and music, to the children who would benefit the most – especially those eligible for free school meals”.
The foundation also found that the majority (85 per cent) of parents think the government should be providing holiday clubs for children.
Out of term meals were backed by a petition last year that was promoted by Rashford and signed by more than one million people.
Last year Conservative MPs voted against providing food for vulnerable families during school holidays amid the Covid-19 pandemic. But the Prime Minister later announced a U-turn on the decision to provide free school meals over Christmas and other school holidays.
Meanwhile, anti-obesity organisation Bite Back 2030 is inviting young people to join newly created youth boards in London and Birmingham. These will offer training and development opportunities for young people, aged between 14 and 17, in the two cities. The deadline for applications is 11 July.
Bite Back 2030 is particularly keen to hear from applicants who are eligible for free school meals or from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.