Marcus Rashford: One million people sign footballer’s petition to extend free school meals

More than a million people have now signed Marcus Rashford’s petition calling for the government to extend free school meals.

The number of signatories reached 1,001,500 at 5pm on Wednesday – two weeks since it was set up by the footballer as part of his campaign to end child food poverty.

So far Boris Johnson has resisted making a similar U-turn to the one earlier this year, when he extended free school meals through the summer holidays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour tried to force the prime minister to do so through the Christmas and February half-term breaks too, but were defeated in a Commons vote last week.

Mr Johnson then came under pressure from some of his own MPs to change his mind, with a junior member of the government quitting over the issue.

In his petition, Rashford says ministers should “support vulnerable children” by implementing three recommendations from the National Food Strategy.

They are:

  • Expand free school meals to all under 16s where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit
  • Provide meals and activities during all holidays
  • Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to at least £4.25 per week, and expand the scheme.

After the petition passed 1 million signatures, a Labour frontbencher signalled they would try again to force the government to change tack if Mr Johnson does not choose to.

“If the government doesn’t U-turn on their refusal to feed hungry kids during school holidays Labour will force another vote on this in the House of Commons,” shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard tweeted.

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