2020 has been an odd year hasn’t it. It has somehow managed to feel like the fastest yet also the longest year ever. So much seems to have happened that even the most striking things – the Australian Wildfires, the death of Kobe Bryant, the impeachment trial of Donald Trump – seem like a life time ago. This loss of any real sense of time can only really be blamed on the global pandemic lockdown which has successfully rolled the days and weeks into one.
Given the year we’ve had so far I didn’t think there could be anything that would surprise me anymore. That was until I saw a *checks notes* professional football player doing more for disadvantaged children that the actual government. That’s right, Manchester United and England football player Marcus Rashford is fighting harder to provide children with free school meals than our actual government.
The United striker has been a strong advocate for free school meals as he himself made use of them as a child. In an open letter on Monday he called on ministers to “find [their] humanity”. In England, roughly 1.3 million children claimed for free school meals in 2019; in Manchester, where Rashford is from, the figure is 28.1% of state educated pupils. Rashford has already raised £20m to boost food distribution with the charity FairShare.
The footballer, who is perhaps better know for his Cruyff turns on the football pitch, has called on the government to make a U-turn on their decision to not provide the National Voucher Scheme during the summer holidays.
After initially rejecting Rashford’s plea, Boris Johnson has now U-turned on free school meals. The government will extend the £15-a-week voucher scheme to cover the 6-week summer holiday, spending an extra £120m to cover this.
It really shouldn’t take pressure from a professionally footballer for a government to do one of its most basic duties, feeding those who are most vulnerable. No child should go without food in the 6th biggest economy in the world and it is a damning indictment of this government’s priorities that they would even consider discontinuing the voucher scheme in the first place.
As for Marcus Rashford, it’s hard to understate what he has done for disadvantage children in England. Surely a Sports Personality of the Year is now on the cards?