Tag Archives: Marcus

After another SERIES of ‘free school meals’ scandals, Rashford demands overhaul of the whole system

Marcus Rashford: he wins campaigns against Boris Johnson’s government (unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour Party) so it is welcome that he is spearheading this call for an all-encompassing review of government policy on child food poverty.

After the second ‘Free School Meals’ scandal in three days, This Writer feels sure I was among many people who wondered why Marcus Rashford – now generally accepted as the Opposition to the Tory government in such matters – had not spoken up.

Now we know.

Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing the government to provide free school meals during Covid-19 lockdowns and during holidays – including Christmas – when the Tories wanted children to starve, has not confined himself to a single FSM-related issue.

Instead he has joined with celebrity chefs and campaigners to demand a full review of Tory policy on child food poverty which they rightly say is not fit for purpose.

They have written a letter to Boris Johnson and his trained-ape-serving-as-Education-Secretary, Gavin Williamson, here:

It deserves to be reproduced in full:

 We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the Government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term. We are ready and willing to support your Government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support. It is only by working together that we end child food poverty.

We know that all political parties agree on the outcome that we are aiming for – ensuring that all children have access to enough health, good-quality food to fulfil their potential. Last Autumn, the Government announced several very positive new measures to help combat child hunger, and we strongly welcomed those announcements. This week, we were heartened to see the Department for Education’s swift response to reports of inadequate Free School Meal food parcels being provided by private companies. The robustness of the message from you and the Secretary of State on this issue was very welcome.

I can only assume the last two sentences of this paragraph were included to butter Johnson up, as most of the nation was horrified that Johnson had contracted out responsibility to provide £30 food parcels to private, profit-making firms who did what came naturally – skimmed off five-sixths of the cash in profit and provided £5 worth of food to cover children’s meals for 10 days.

Some Tories even went on the record to say they couldn’t understand the fuss as this was only supposed to provide for a single meal in the day – without realising that their right-wing policies have stamped on families so hard that this may be the only food those children see in a day.

Despite these positive commitments, we strongly feel that now (following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic) is the right moment for you to step back and review the policy in more depth. The signatories to this letter urge the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to provide recommendations for the next Spending Review.

This would allow the Government to provide strong national leadership on children’s food so that our nation’s most disadvantaged children and their families, already disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, don’t continue to bear the brunt. In the first lockdown (March-August), 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank. Free School Meals are a very important part of the safety net that protects children from impoverished families from hunger and poor nutrition.

We believe the review should be debated in Parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays. The process will require collaboration from politicians in all the devolved nations with responsibility for school food in their regions, and must involve close consultation with children and young people, as well as teachers, charities, NGOs, frontline catering staff and school meals service providers. It should draw on evidence of food insecurity and health inequalities. We stand ready to provide our full support to the review process.

And experience tells us that the only people Boris Johnson’s government likes to consult are those who are likely to agree with what he wants to do; dissenting voices are ignored. This will make it very difficult for the Tories to devise a strategy that works for any group wider than the Conservative government of Boris Johnson.

We recommend that its scope include:

1. The current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals. The Government should seek to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded from Free School Meal eligibility (in line with National Food Strategy recommendations) and to work with the Devolved Administrations to eliminate disparities between the nations. Current estimates show 2 in 5 UK children under the poverty line are missing out. The ongoing eligibility for children from No Recourse to Public Funds should be address explicitly.

2. How funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.

3. How schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer. This should include introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and examining how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.

4. What we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.

5. Ensuring that existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday provision and breakfast provision) eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health, and education.

6. The role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

The Tory response to this should be interesting. Tories habitually say families should be able to provide for their own children, despite the fact that their own policies have squeezed family incomes beyond breaking-point. It’s no good saying people should be able to afford things when you are responsible for ensuring that they can’t!

This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic. It would also demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan.

I foresee difficulties.

Already the Welsh Government – which is run by the Labour Party – has taken to Twitter to let people in Wales know that the problems created by the Tories in England do not affect them:

The Tories are hardly going to want to work with organisations that are merrily scoring points off them.

School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children. Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step.

The letter is signed by Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and by representatives of Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, the Children Society, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s First Alliance, Feeding Britain, Soil Association, The Bread and Butter Thing, Mayor’s Fund for London, The School Food People, Meals & More, Poverty and Inequality Commission, Independent Food Aid Network UK, Impact on Urban Health, The Fair Education Alliance, the WI, ASSIST FM, Magic Breakfast, Turn2Us, Buttle UK, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, End Child Poverty Coalition, TACT, Scottish Qut of School Care Network, Khulisa UK, The Mighty Creatives, The Equality Trust, One Parent Families Scotland, End Furniture Poverty, Family Action, USDAW, Child Poverty Action Group, Biteback 2030, Just Fair, Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre, Oxford, Co-Op Retail, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Psychological Society, British Association of Social Workers, Association of School and College Leaders, King’s Cross Academy, Academies Enterprise Trust, Cabot Learning Federation, Co-op Academies Trust, The Shared Learning Trust, The Eden Academy Trust, LDBS Academies Trusts, National Governance Association, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Teach First.

I include the whole list because I think it is important for us to understand the sheer number of organisations that now exist to address children’s food poverty – or have to address it as part of their wider activities.

This has only become such a major issue because the Conservatives have forced so many families into food poverty.

So it seems worthwhile to raise the issue of whether we should stop allowing Conservative Party members to form governments that inflict such misery, such starvation, on so many millions of us, just so a tiny minority can live in the kind of luxury that most of us cannot even imagine.

There’s only one question left to ask:

Why is Rashford doing the Labour Party’s job? If Jeremy Corbyn was still party leader, Labour would be all over this.

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Rashford comes under media attack – but he’s done nothing wrong!

Marcus Rashford: Here’s a man who stands up for people who would otherwise suffer at the hands of a cruel government. What he does in his spare time, with his own cash, is his own business. What does the Daily Mail stand for?

This is classism and possibly racism from the Daily Mail.

The newspaper- if you really want to dignify it with that description – ran a story that footballer Marcus Rashford has bought five houses worth £2 million.

What business is it of ours? It’s his money and what he does with it is his concern.

Here’s the tell, in the headline: “Campaigning football star Marcus Rashford has bought five luxury homes…”

Oh, now we get it! He’s under attack because he dared to campaign for the Conservative government to actually face up to its responsibilities and look after people its policies are harming.

Rashford responded:

He realised there was a dog whistle in this – and he wasn’t the only one.

Many people saw it as racism:

The most sinister aspect of this is that it comes across as a prelude; there will be worse to follow. Gary Lineker knows the score:

Happily, this is a tactic that has backfired; the Mail will lose support because of this:

NHS Million’s decision is perfectly understandable and This Writer hopes others will follow it.

I wish I could do the same but This Site (and others) has to debunk the nonsense these mass-media extremists use to pollute our political consciousness.

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Conservatives who rejected free school meal plan have done the impossible: they made Nigel Farage look reasonable

No square meals: vulnerable children will be forced to go hungry during the school holidays because the stingy Tory government wants them to starve.

Conservatives in Parliament have rejected a plea by footballer – and anti-poverty campaigner – Marcus Rashford for the government to fund meals for poor children during school holidays.

Despite some unease on the Tory benches, a motion on providing 1.4m disadvantaged children in England with £15-a-week food vouchers during holidays until Easter 2021 was voted down.

Conservatives were scathing in their criticism of Rashford, who personally experienced food poverty as a child:

But this attitude is nonsense from a political party that has spent decades depriving working-class parents of the financial ability to feed their children.

The hypocrisy is even stronger during the year of Covid-19 when people are being forced to live on a fraction of their normal wages, or to claim Universal Credit and suffer a five-week delay in payments that pushes them into debt, meaning the amount they receive will never be enough.

Meanwhile, the Tory-funded “gravy train”, pumping money to their chums in business for Covid-19-related measures that don’t work, is chugging along merrily:

Rashford took to Twitter – the social media that was the focus of Brendan Clarke-Smith’s petulance – to spell out his frustration:

But the most biting criticism came from Nigel Farage, the former UKIP and current Brexit Party leader, who said on Twitter that “not being seen to give poor kids lunch in the school holidays looks mean and is wrong”.

The comment went viral, and it isn’t hard to understand the reason:

The strange forces on Twitter that spot anti-Tory tweets and try to mitigate them meant that the very first reply to Farage’s message came from one Helen Thomas, who contradicts herself in her own Twitter bio: “No personal messages, why are the lefties so vile?”

She had to change it from “Why are there so many rude selfish people on Twitter?” – possibly after it was pointed out to her that she is one such person. So we can see where she’s coming from.

Her response was that poor people should forage for food – and it has received short shrift, I’m happy to report:

And it got worse for her after she revealed where she found her apples:

Yes indeed. How devoid of empathy & humanity must you be to make Nigel Farage appear sensible.

But that is exactly what many (although not all) Conservative MPs have done – following their boss Boris Johnson’s lead.

Including your MP, perhaps.

Postscript: Readers in England may wish to note that the devolved governments in Wales and Scotland have both provided funds to ensure that free school meals are available to children who need them:

Source: Marcus Rashford in ‘despair’ as MPs reject free school meal plan | Education | The Guardian

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#BringBackBrown: ex-PMs endorsement of Rashford school meals petition sparks support

The secret of great political drama – as with comedy – is timing. And the timing of Gordon Brown’s political intervention is very dramatic for Boris Johnson.

The former Labour prime minister, who was in office between 2007 and 2010, has declared his support for footballer Marcus Rashford’s petition for schools to provide free meals to children whose families are stricken with poverty – possibly because of Tory Covid-19 restrictions.

Johnson has already refused Rashford’s demand. As far as he’s concerned, poor people’s ankle-biters can starve.

Or, if you want a less partisan view, here’s The Independent:

Poorer pupils will not receive free meals during school holidays, No 10 insists – putting Boris Johnson on a fresh collision course with footballer Marcus Rashford.

The Manchester United star has launched a fresh campaign to help hungry children, calling for vouchers for October’s half-term break and at Christmas.

The England striker stepped up his campaign by launching a Commons petition, saying: “Whatever your feeling, opinion or judgement, food poverty is never the child’s fault.”

The petition is also calling for free school meals to be extended to any household which receives benefits – to help a further 1.5million under-16s, during term-time.

But the [prime minister’s] spokesperson said: “We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic, when schools were partially closed during lockdown.

“We are in a different position now. Schools are back open to all pupils and do not regularly provide food to pupils during term-time.

“We believe the best way to support families outside of term times is through universal credit, rather than schools subsidising meals.”

It’s easy to punch holes in this statement – but I don’t have to.

Mr Brown appeared on the BBC’s Breakfast News to say that he has signed Rashford’s petition, and he was delighted to explain his reasons:

Politely and calmly, he absolutely shredded the Tory prime minister’s statement:

It’s clear that Naga Munchetty had been told to end that segment of the interview, giving the government the last word, but Brown wasn’t having any of it. He explained exactly why the statement was nonsense and put the ball back very firmly in Boris Johnson’s court, saying it is for the (current) prime minister to answer this – not a stooge.

Then the most successful UK chancellor of the 21st century (still) levelled his verbal guns on current chancellor Rishi Sunak, saying – effectively – that his economic plans are nonsense. And, again, he was making perfect sense:

The interview has sparked a surge of support for the former chancellor and prime minister, whose calm, reasonable delivery prompted nostalgia for the days when the government was run by reasonable people who understood how a country works, rather than by populist prattlers whose only concern is making a fast buck for themselves:

Perhaps we need more interventions like this – to put Johnson and his hysterics firmly in context.

God knows, we’re not getting it from Starmer the Abstainer.

Source: Boris Johnson rejects Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals to half-term and Christmas holidays | The Independent

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Rashford strikes again – belittling ignorant Tory MP over ‘feeding children’ tweet

Marcus Rashford: he is campaigning to end food poverty and the Tory government has said it will listen to his recommendations. But one Tory MP seems to be shooting wild.

Footballer and food poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford scored against Kevin Hollinrake after the Tory MP shot his mouth off about parental responsibility to feed children.

Hollinrake responded to a tweet from a member of the public asking why it was necessary for Marcus Rashford to make a stand for hungry children in society.

This person asked: Isn’t that the job of our MPs?

Hollinrake responded: “Where they can, it’s a parents job to feed their children.”

But Rashford had noticed the exchange and responded to it – politely, but firmly:

“I would urge you to talk to families before tweeting. To this day I haven’t met one parent who hasn’t wanted or felt the responsibility to feed their children…”

To This Writer’s way of thinking, he was too easy on the Tory twit.

The point is that, in many cases, it is Tory policy that has made it impossible for parents to feed their children; they have cut real-terms wages and benefits to the point where it is impossible to afford the rent, other bills, and food as well.

Hollinrake should have known that, but chose to express his ignorance instead.

The amazing thing is that the people of Thirsk and Malton thought he was fit to represent them.

But from now on – at least – he is a marked man.

Source: Marcus Rashford slams Tory MP for ‘feeding children’ tweet – Mirror Online

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