Rashford steps up campaign over free meals for children

FILE PHOTO: Premier League - Burnley v Manchester United - Turf Moor, Burnley, Britain - December 28, 2019 Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring their second goal against Burnley. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford has stepped up his campaign for the government to fund free meals for struggling children through the summer, support he himself had to rely on as a boy.

The 22-year-old striker has helped to raise around 20 million pounds ($25 million) with charity FareShare UK to supply meals to those families who are "existing on a knife's edge". He wants the government's food voucher scheme to continue when the schools are shut in the summer.

Of the 1.3 million children who are registered for free school meals in England, a quarter have not received any support since schools closed in response to COVID-19, he said.

"As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind actions of neighbours and coaches," he wrote in a letter to the government posted on Twitter.

"Food banks and soup kitchens were not alien to us; I recall very clearly our visits to Northern Moor to collect our Christmas dinners every year."

As a black man from a low income family in Manchester, Rashford wrote that he could have been just another statistic. Instead, due to the support of his mum and his community, he is known for the goals he scores and the England caps he has won.

"Do you know how much courage it takes for a grown man to say, 'I can't cope' or 'I can't support my family?' Men, women, caregivers, are calling out for our help and we aren't listening," he said.

A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the prime minister would respond as soon as he could. He added that the government had agreed to give 63 million pounds to local authorities to help families in need.

"He (Rashford) has been using his profile in a positive way to highlight some very important issues," he added.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison)

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