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Marcus Rashford addresses 'stigma' around struggling parents as he launches child poverty task force

This summer Marcus Rashford turned from Manchester United football to trailblazing campaigner forcing the government into a major u-turn over child food poverty.

Now he's starting a taskforce to end child poverty in the UK for good.

During the summer the 22-year-old successfully convinced Boris Johnson to provide £15 a week to children from struggling households during the summer holidays.

He told Piers and Susanna he was inspired to fight for change after his own mum really struggled when he was young.

"That's the reason why it's so personal to me. Over the last few weeks I've spoken to families we've helped and those who need help and it's taken it one step further," he said.

"I believe if people heard their voices like I heard their voices then they would want to join the task force and make life easier for them."

Among other things, the task force is aiming to expand free schools meals to every child on Universal Credit.

Rashford explained what it can be like for children to go hungry through the school day, adding: "If you're young and you're not eating you just have no energy, you don't feel comfortable going to school.

"Most of the times, the ones that aren't eating, they just sleep all day at school because they're physically drained."

"It can be the beginning of homelessness or crime and it starts so many different pathways that you don't want your children to go down," Rashford said.

After Kevin Hollinrake MP tweeted Rashford, as below, saying it was parents' responsibility to feed their children, the footballer said comments like this contributed to the 'stigma' around asking for help.

"I've always been brought up that if you need help and someone is in a position to help then you should feel comfortable to ask them and my response was just trying to reiterate that," Rashford said.

"We actually need people to ask for help in order to get them the help that they need."

A group of supermarkets, businesses and charities - including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, FareShare, Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg's, Lidl, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose - have formed a task force and backed proposals from the National Food Strategy, an independent review of UK food policy.

The task force is calling for three policy recommendations by the National Food Strategy to be funded by the government as soon as possible:

  • Expanding free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged seven to 16.

  • Expanding an existing school holiday food and activities programme to support all children on free school meals in all areas of England. instead of the current 50,000 children that are helped.

  • Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers - which help parents with children under the age of four and pregnant women buy some basic foods - from £3.10 to £4.25 per week, and expanding it to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 people.

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