The food poverty charity FareShare received a record number of donations this week as the footballer Marcus Rashford continues to hold the government’s feet to the fire over free school meals.
Earlier this week, the Manchester United and England striker’s campaign to end child food poverty took another turn as he called for an extension of free school meals to 1.4m children during the school holidays.
But a Labour motion to provide disadvantaged children in England with £15 a week in food vouchers during holidays until Easter was defeated by the Conservatives on Wednesday night.
In response, Rashford told his 3.5m Twitter followers that a significant number of children would not only go hungry, but feel like they did not matter.
He said: “I’ll be with @FareShareUK tomorrow to support the real superstars, our volunteers. The food banks are in for a very tough winter. Most are currently distributing six food packages per min and we are only in Oct.”
Rashford volunteered at FareShare Greater Manchester on Thursday.
A FareShare spokesperson said the charity had recorded 5,731 additional donors supporting the charity this week, including a single £3,000 donation, and the number was continuing to rise.
Over a 24-hour period, immediately after the parliamentary vote, individual giving broke all FareShare donation records, the charity said, surpassing the peak it saw in mid-June, around the time of Rashford’s last campaign asking the government to take action on this issue.
But the charity was unable to put a figure on how much had been raised during that time.
Businesses have been responding in droves to the footballer’s campaign, offering to provide free food to children in poverty over the half-term holiday.
Rashford has been using his Twitter feed to flag up the offers.
Blown away by news of local businesses stepping up to fill the voucher scheme deficit during the October half term. Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know ??????????????— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 22, 2020
Add #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY to your tweets so I can track them. I will share as many as I can ??
Rashford forced the government into an embarrassing U-turn over the summer after he campaigned to secure free meal vouchers for eligible schoolchildren in England throughout the summer holidays.
During the coronavirus lockdown the government provided vouchers to families whose children qualify for free school meals, but it had insisted this would not continue outside of term-time – until Rashford took up the cause.
The 22-year-old has previously spoken of his own experience of food poverty growing up in Wythenshawe, Manchester, and FareShare said his support for the charity since March this year had been transformational.
Rashford has also called for an increase in the value of Healthy Start fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers for pregnant women on low incomes, and an expansion of charity-led holiday hunger schemes.
Additionally, he has helped raise enough money to enable FareShare to provide enough food for more than 4.2m meals for children and families who might not otherwise eat adequately during the crisis.
Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare, said: “We’re in awe of the incredible support which Marcus Rashford has galvanised from the general public and for their generous donations.
“He has shone a spotlight on a real need which millions of families and children are currently facing and the public has stepped up to show how much they care.”
Boswell said the charity was committed to getting much-needed food into vulnerable communities and was grateful for everyone helping it to do so.