Marcus Rashford backs Welsh Government plans for free school meals over holidays

The 22-year-old Manchester United striker is calling for an end to child food poverty. Credit: PA Images

Marcus Rashford has welcomed the Welsh Government's decision to guarantee free school meals during the holidays until Easter next year.

The education minister announced that £11 million had been made available to ensure meal provisions for all school holidays up to and including Easter 2021.

The Manchester United and England striker backed "the swift response to this urgent need in protecting the most vulnerable children across the country."

The 22-year-old, who has just been made an MBE for his services to vulnerable children, is leading a campaign to end child food poverty."No child in 2020 should be sat in a classroom worried about how they are going to access food during the holidays," he said.

"The impact that will have on their parents when matched with unemployment, ill health and, in some cases, personal loss."

Rashford said the meals are vital to "stabilising households" after the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Having this framework in place for the foreseeable future will have a significantly positive impact on children who are struggling to engage in learning due to anxiety and fear, not to mention the noise of their rumbling stomachs.

"There is still so much more work to be done to protect this next generation but I welcome the Welsh Government's swift response to this urgent need in protecting the most vulnerable children across the country."

Kirsty Williams also announced more than £700,000 to support colleges with the equivalent measures for students who are eligible.

The Welsh Government said it had previously allocated #41.7 million to ensure free school meals continue to be provided during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Welsh Government had already allocated £41.7m before today's announcement bringing the total now to £52.7m. Credit: PA Images

In April, Wales became the first country in the UK to guarantee ongoing funding for children to continue to benefit from free school meals until the end of the summer holidays.

After schools reopened in September, the Welsh Government said at least £420,000 had been made available to ensure pupils would continue to receive free school meals if they were shielding or had to self-isolate.

Ms Williams said: "We have worked tirelessly this year to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the countless challenges it has presented but we have not, and will not, forget those for who school is about far more than education.

"I am pleased to confirm that we have today made #11 million available to provide free school meal provisions over every school holiday up to and including Easter 2021.

"I really hope this provides some reassurance in these times of uncertainty."