News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. June 17, 2020: A Caribbean-roots UK born soccer star has forced the Boris Johnson government to do a U-turn on its decision on school meals for poor children.
Manchester United soccer star Marcus Rashford, whose roots extend to St. Kitts, pressured the government Tuesday into extending free school meals for poor children over the school summer break.
“This is not about politics; this is about humanity,” the England striker wrote in an open letter to lawmakers Monday. “Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?”
Prime Minister Johnson’s Conservative government caved Tuesday after repeatedly rejecting Rashford’s plea to provide free meals in England.
The decision came hours before a parliamentary vote on the issue, allowing for a “Covid summer food fund” worth some 120 million pounds.
Johnson for his part welcomed Rashford’s “contribution to the debate around poverty and respects he’s been using his profile as a leading sportsman to highlight important issues.”
“This was never about me or you, this was never about politics,” Rashford tweeted in response. “This was a cry out for help from vulnerable parents all over the country and I simply provided a platform for their voices to be heard.”
One quarter of the children in the U.K. who rely on free school meals have not received additional support while schools have been shuttered during the pandemic.
Rashford was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester, and is of Kittitian descent. He began playing football for Fletcher Moss Rangers at the age of five and joined the academy system at Manchester United at the age of seven.
Rashford was named on the first-team bench for the first time on 21 November 2015 by Louis van Gaal for a Premier League match against Watford, which Manchester United won 2–1. On February 25, 2016, Rashford was a late addition to the Manchester United starting line-up for their UEFA Europa League round of 32, second leg tie against Midtjylland after Anthony Martial was injured in the warm-up; Rashford marked his first-team debut with two goals in the second half of a 5–1 win