The UK government announced on Tuesday that it will extend a program that provides free school meals for children from low-income families while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, reversing its previous decision to end the program at the conclusion of the school year. That reversal wouldn’t have happened without Rashford, who wrote an open letter to UK politicians on Sunday asking them to “make the U-turn” and continue the program.
In the letter, Rashford used his own childhood experiences to highlight how vital free meal programs are, especially over the summer. Rashford grew up in a low-income family, and would depend on the free meals he’d get at a kids’ club — clubs that are currently shut down due to COVID-19.
The letter didn’t work immediately. A spokesperson for the UK Department of Education responded to Rashford’s plea on Monday, saying that the free meal program would end as planned. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson was equally unhelpful, promising that Johnson would respond “as soon as he can.”
Following those snubs, Rashford vowed to keep fighting. He continued to tweet stats about child poverty and hunger, asking his followers to put aside politics and tweet the hashtag “#MakeTheUTurn,” a plea for the government to reverse its decision.
We aren’t beaten yet, stand strong for the 200,000 children who haven’t had a meal to eat today and keep retweeting 🗣 #maketheUturn— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) June 15, 2020
We are trending no 1 and 2 in England. I need everyone’s help to keep this noise going as I head to training but before I go, to ALL MPs in Parliament, this is not about politics. The same way us players put rivalry aside when we put the England shirt on, please #maketheuturn— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) June 16, 2020
He also wrote an article in The Times on Tuesday that asked politicians to “help us break the cycle of hardship” of child poverty in the UK.
“I don't claim to have the education of an MP in parliament, but I do have a social education,” Rashford wrote. “I am clued up on the difference a U-turn decision would make on the 1.3 million vulnerable children across the UK who are registered for free school meals because 10 years ago I was one of them.”
Rashford’s pressure campaign on UK lawmakers worked. After the government announced that the program would continue, he tweeted his thanks to everyone who helped amplify his message, but kept the focus where it belonged: on children and families struggling with hunger and poverty.
I don’t even know what to say.— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) June 16, 2020
Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.
Rashford, who has already helped raise $25 million for the charity FairShare to help distribute food for families struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, is garnering widespread admiration for his relentless work on behalf of children in poverty.
Even Manchester United’s sworn rival, Liverpool, praised Rashford for his actions.
Children in our region will benefit because of the actions of this remarkable role model ❤️— Liverpool FC (at 🏠) (@LFC) June 16, 2020
From Liverpool With Love. https://t.co/mSatwzZZ2E
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