Marcus Rashford calls for action as nearly 1 million kids need Free School Meals

Marcus Rashford has urged the Government to “act now” to help battling families and sort out free school meals.

His plea comes as the number of youngsters registered for meals has nearly ­doubled since August.

A survey of 2,000 parents suggests 900,000 children have been signed up to the scheme since the summer holidays.

But as numbers soar, schools are struggling to cope.

The Food Foundation carried out the research for the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign, being spearheaded by the Manchester United and England star.

It shows that nearly a third of children getting free school meals are from families that have lost income in the pandemic.

More than two million youngsters aged eight to 17 are entitled to free canteen meals. This means their parents receive benefits such as Income Support, Job­seeker’s Allowance or Child Tax Credit due to being on an annual income of less than £16,190.

With redundancies expected to soar, demand will rise further. Yet schools are struggling to provide hot food due to Covid-19 restrictions, with only 32% of kids saying they are eating hot meals from the canteen.

Half take packed lunches and 3% skip lunch. Marcus, 22, who has been awarded an MBE for services to vulnerable kids, said: “The numbers recorded here reinforce the need for urgency in stabilising households. We must act now to protect the next generation and the most vulnerable across the UK.”

Last week, the star again called for the free school meals scheme to cover this month’s half term break.

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The Food Foundation is part of Marcus’s Child Food Poverty Task Force, along with 20 other charities and key industry figures, and wants measures to protect Britain’s vulnerable children.

Anna Taylor, Food Foundation’s executive director, said “too many” kids miss out on school meals because they can’t afford them or because canteens are not fully operational due to Covid. She said a failure to address both issues could have “permanent impacts” on children.