Manchester United star Marcus Rashford has forced the UK government into a U-turn over free school meal vouchers for children over the summer.
The scheme, open to families on low incomes, normally ends at the school term but Rashford campaigned for it to be extended over July and August to help families hit by the coronavirus lockdown.
The UK government had insisted that the voucher scheme would not be extended but changed its mind on Tuesday.
Downing Street said the one-off COVID Summer Food Fund will provide food vouchers for children during the six-week summer break.
It comes after Rashford wrote an emotional letter — a plea to MPs and the British government — in which he recounted his family’s own struggles putting food on the table when he was growing up.
“As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind actions of neighbours and coaches,” wrote Rashford.
“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.”
He spoke about an estimated 200,000 children whose “stomachs grumble” and 1.3 million children who rely on the programme.
Rashford, a 22-year-old forward for Manchester United, has more than 2.8 million followers on Twitter and his campaign was endorsed by celebrities and even MPs using the hashtag #maketheUturn.
Labour politicians such as Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey supported the campaign with Long-Bailey stating that it wasn’t about politics but rather “humanity”.
The hashtag was soon trending on Twitter in the UK as Rashford continued to post about people who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The young striker, who was part of England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, is one of United’s home-grown talents.
He had previously teamed up with food distribution charity FareShare which estimated that 1.3 million children could face hunger and malnutrition without the “safety net of free school meals.”
Writing in The Times, he said the government reversing the decision on meal vouchers would be a “trophy… much bigger than football”.
After the decision from Number 10, 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.”