“There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
― Nelson Mandela
England international footballer and philanthropist, Marcus Rashford has challenged the UK government to implement a campaign to tackle child food poverty by launching a new website, endchildfoodpoverty.org designating all families and communities in need of help to available food support schemes in every region of the UK. Mr Rashford’s petition urges the government to increase access to free school meals, offer holiday meals and events to reduce hunger and enhance the healthy start initiative to deliver additional support for young mothers on benefits.
Sadly we live in a world where trillions of pounds and dollars can be spent fighting the Coronavirus but a tiny fraction of that doesn’t get spent on the children who so desperately need it. Both in the UK and Abroad.
“We must act with urgency to stabilise the households of our vulnerable children. No child in the UK should be going to bed hungry. Whatever your feeling, opinion, or judgement, food poverty is never the child's fault. Let's protect our young. Let's wrap arms around each other and stand together to say that this is unacceptable, that we are united in protecting our children. Together we can end this problem.” - Marcus Rashford, endchildfoodpoverty.org.
Marcus Rashford reinforces the idea that people must stand and work together to end child food poverty as it cannot be tackled individually. To accomplish this, individuals must lay aside their different beliefs and assumptions on child poverty and deliver the humane treatment that children in need deserve.
The Impact of Covid-19 On Child Food Poverty In The UK
The Big Issue magazine states that a mixture of Coronavirus redundancies, revenue cuts and higher costs indicate that the poorest households in the UK are becoming poorer, and child poverty is increasing. During the pandemic, 120,000 of the 700,000 individuals estimated to have been forced into UK poverty were children.
Recent statistics by The Food Foundation reveal that in the last 6 months, 14 per cent of adults in families with children experienced moderate to severe food insecurity. Four million individuals live in these households, involving 2.3 million children. This is 11.5 per cent compared to pre-Covid-19 levels between households with children. Data also reveals that over the last 6 months, 12 per cent of adults living with children reported missing meals since they were unable to afford or access food.
10% of parents or guardians, impacting approximate 1.9 million children, recorded that in the last 6 months, food insecurity had impacted their children in multiple ways causing them to depend on only limited types of low-cost foods to serve their children, provide inconsistent meals, and switch to smaller portions or skip meals completely.
Marcus Rashford’s Projects And Plans On Reducing Child Food Poverty
The Food Foundation joined Marcus Rashford's Child Food Poverty Task Force, demanding the government to enact three policy proposals from the National Food Strategy to assist the UK's most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. They were:
1. Widen eligibility to involve every child from a family where the parent or guardian is receiving Universal Credit for the Free School Meal scheme. An approximate extra 1.5 million 7–16-year-olds will benefit from Free School Meals under this proposal.
2. Expand the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all regions of England ensuring that all children receiving Free School Meals have access to summer holiday support.
3. Raise the cost of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week and extend the initiative to every pregnant woman and to all families with children below the age of four where Universal Credit or related benefits are obtained by a parent or guardian.
Data collected from a survey produced by The Food Foundation, reveals the necessity for immediate action to tackle the rising numbers of households encountering food poverty. The Government's furlough scheme, the rise in Universal Credit payments and the expansion over the summer holidays of Free School Meal vouchers were essential temporary strategies to prevent the situation from escalating. Although rates of 30-day food insecurity have improved since the first several months of lockdown, the data reinforces the need for long-term policy measures to be enacted, enabling access to a healthy diet for both parents and children.
Marcus Rashford’s Task Force is receiving support from multiple charities including the Food Foundation and Fareshare as well as national supermarkets such as Asda, Aldi, Tesco, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and many more. This highlights how the footballer is empowering everyone else to do the same, take action and support him in the journey of ending child food poverty which cannot be accomplished alone as he mentions that:
“We are at the beginning of what I see as a long journey”.
His Child Food Poverty Task Force has had a significant and meaningful impact on children and on reducing child food poverty since it has managed to reach numerous individuals who were not getting reached, however as Mr Rashford states:
“There is a lot more which needs to be done and a lot more steps which need to be taken forward” as there are “still people out there who are really struggling”.
There is an old adage that if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together. Marcus Rashford shows us that to enact true change it never takes one individual but many individuals working together on a long and often arduous journey.