Marcus Rashford: I’m grateful Boris Johnson changed policy on free school meals

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford says he's grateful Boris Johnson changed policy on free school meals. Credit: PA

England footballer Marcus Rashford has said he is “grateful” that Boris Johnson made a U-turn to provide free school meal vouchers to eligible pupils over the summer holidays.

The Manchester United striker, 22, was praised by the Prime Minister for his highly personal campaign, which forced the Government to change its policy.

Downing Street on Tuesday announced a one-off £120 million fund which will benefit some 1.3 million children in England over the six-week summer period.

Rashford told BBC Breakfast he was “shocked” by the decision.

He said: “It’s a big decision for someone to make and I’m just grateful that the Prime Minister did change his decision and he understood.

“I spoke to him earlier on today and just thanked him for that – it was a nice conversation to have with him.”

Mr Johnson congratulated Rashford for the campaign, saying the policy change was the “right thing to do”.

The PM told the daily Downing Street press conference: “Clearly free school meals should generally apply in term time, that’s what they are there for.

“But we have to understand the pressures families are under right now and that’s why we’ve responded as we have.

“As I say, I think it is the right thing to do and it will help the kids from the families who really need it.”

Rashford wrote an open letter on Monday asking the Government to reverse its decision not to award free school meals vouchers to vulnerable children outside of term time.

A Department for Education spokesman said later that day that the national voucher scheme was not being extended.

But amid mounting pressure, Number 10 said on Tuesday that the Government would provide a Covid Summer Food Fund to reflect the fact families face an “unprecedented situation” over the holidays.

It is understood payment will be through a one-off six-week voucher given to eligible families at the end of term to use in supermarkets.

The scheme will not continue beyond this summer, Downing Street said.

The vouchers will amount to £15 a week per child and some 1.3 million children in England will be eligible, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.