Marcus Rashford convinces UK government into U-turn over free school meals

The UK government has confirmed it will extend a national voucher scheme to feed children from low-income families following a campaign from Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford.

The Manchester United striker wrote to politicians in an open letter on Sunday asking them to rethink the decision to end the programme to provide free school meals for children from low-income families while schools were closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said on Monday the initiative would end as planned at the completion of the school year, but Rashford said he would continue the campaign.

The government backtracked on its decision on Tuesday and announced that it would extend the programme, providing £120 million in funding.

"I don't even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020," Rashford said in a tweet following the government's announcement.

Rashford, 22, has already helped raise more than £20 million for food distribution charity FareShare during the coronavirus outbreak.

Labour's Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition party in the UK, congratulated Rashford on his campaign.

"This is another welcome U-turn from Boris Johnson," he said. "The thought of 1.3 million children going hungry this summer was unimaginable.

"Well done to Marcus Rashford and many others who spoke out so powerfully about this issue."

The government introduced the scheme, which is worth £15 a week to recipients, in March when schools were forced to shut down and has been backed by teachers unions.