Downing Street has refused to praise the scores of businesses that have offered to feed the country’s neediest children in response to Marcus Rashford’s viral anti-hunger campaign.
The England footballer – who has spent months campaigning to try and end child hunger throughout the school holidays – has been sharing posts from businesses, local councils and schools who are unilaterally volunteering free food for children who might otherwise go hungry.
Dozens of posts have been shared since Thursday night, offering sandwiches, sausages and even taxis to the nearest food bank – after 322 Tory MPs voted down a motion to extend free school meals to the holidays.
Asked whether Boris Johnson would offer praise and support to the firms offering food, a Number 10 spokesman demurred, telling reporters: “We’ve set out our position a number of times. There’s no change.
“As we have set out before we’re in a different position now with schools back open to all and the vast majority of pupils back in school.
“And I believe the PM said during PMQs free school meals will continue during term time and he wants to continue to support families throughout the crisis and there is cash available to feed kids if they need to.”
Asked whether the prime minister would applaud councils that have got involved of their own volition, he added: “Whilst schools continue to play an integral role in the community it’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during school holidays.
“As we’ve said before, we’re in a different position now with schools back open.
“But we have done a lot to make sure the most vulnerable in our society are protected and that has included extending free school meals to support those eligible when schools were partially closed during lockdown, increasing universal credit by £20 a week, and £63m funding for councils to provide emergency assistance to families with food, essentials and meals.”
During PMQs, Johnson three times refused to agree to extend free meal support – as he did over the summer.
He told MPs on Wednesday: “We support kids on low incomes in school and we will continue to do so. What I want to do is to make sure we continue to support families through the crisis.”