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English footballer convinced UK government to donate additional £120m for free school meals

Stories of success
This summer, at the initiative of Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, the UK Government extended the free school meals voucher programme, allocating 120 million pounds from the budget. About 1.3 million schoolchildren from low-income families, who were getting free school meals, did not go hungry during the summer holidays.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the voucher scheme in England was brought in for families whose children would normally get free school dinners, the coronavirus lockdown meant many families had to spend more money to feed children, while they were encouraged to stay at home.

The scheme was due to end by the school summer holidays. But Marcus Rashford could not remain indifferent to the fact that, for children from vulnerable families, this summer vacation could be a “hunger” vacation.

Rashford addressed Members of Parliament to extend the voucher programme. In the letter, he described his difficult childhood, how free school meals and food banks saved him from hunger, and how important it is to help vulnerable families and their children. Rashford's letter was praised by several politicians as well as teachers and others working in education who had asked the government to listen to him. They listened and extended the free school meals by six weeks during the summer holidays.

A satisfied Rashford tweeted, "I don't even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020".

Encouraged by his initiative, Rashford decided not to stop there: "I don't want this to be the end of it because there are more steps that need to be taken," he said. "People are struggling all year around so we still need to learn more about the situation people are in and how we can help them best."

He has already sent another letter to members of parliament. And the government has already said it will review the list of changes to the school meals programme that the Rashford working group would like to make.

"There is still a long way to go but I am thankful to you all that we have given these families just one less thing to worry about tonight. The wellbeing of our children should ALWAYS be a priority." - Rashford said.

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