Free school meal voucher scheme extended to cover the summer holidays following footballer’s campaign

A high-profile campaign by England and Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, has resulted in the Government extending a free school meal voucher scheme to cover the upcoming summer holidays.

The extension of the scheme means that parents will be able to claim vouchers for around 1.3 million children across England over the six-week summer break.

The scheme was launched when schools first closed as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown and vouchers are worth around £15 a week for each eligible child.

To qualify for the scheme, children must already have qualified for free school meals and live in a household with an income of less than £7,400 before benefits. This means that families whose incomes fall between now and the summer holidays will not qualify.

Just over 27 per cent of children in Birmingham receive free school meals.

In an open letter to Members of Parliament, Rashford said: “As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind actions of neighbours and coaches. 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. It’s only now that I really understand the enormous sacrifice my mum made in sending me away to live in digs aged 11, a decision no mother would ever make lightly.

“This summer should have been filled with pride once more, parents and children waving their flags, but in reality, Wembley Stadium could be filed more than twice with children who have had to skip meals during lockdown due to their families not being able to access food.”

Lisa Davies, COO at Excelsior MAT, added: “Food poverty has a devastating impact on children’s ability to reach their full potential, so it is wonderful that Marcus Rashford has been able to secure this much-needed help for families across England this summer.”