Manchester United will provide 5,000 meals for vulnerable children over the October half-term holidays, the club have announced.
A partnership between the club, the Manchester United Foundation and the charity FareShare means meals will be prepared in the Old Trafford kitchens and delivered to six local schools which partner with the foundation.
The meals will be for children who receive Government-funded school meals during term time.
It comes at a time when the Government is under pressure to reverse its decision to provide free school meals over the holiday in England. United striker Marcus Rashford has led a campaign to extend the free meals provision.
“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more families are dealing with food poverty,” a statement from the club read.
“The impact of the virus has exacerbated an existing problem and, with unemployment rising and the economic crisis biting hard, many are struggling with reduced income.
“As a result, many families and children simply do not have enough food and are going hungry. This initiative does not solve the issue locally, but will make a significant difference to the lives of hundreds of families across Greater Manchester.”
John Shiels, the chief executive of the Manchester United Foundation, said: “We’re incredibly proud and humbled to be working with FareShare over October half-term. This initiative will go a long way to ensuring that pupils from our partner schools and families using local food-banks have fresh meals to eat, during what we know is a difficult time for many.
“We’ve seen first-hand how children from socially challenged backgrounds can be even more vulnerable when they’re not in school, it’s therefore imperative to be present in their lives throughout the school holidays, showing that we care and the Foundation is always here to support.”
Over the weekend Rashford highlighted initiatives from local councils, cafes and restaurants to provide food for those most in need.
United’s chief operating officer Collette Roche said: “With our teams back playing, the attention for many has returned to what is happening on the pitch.
“But our work to help support those in need has not stopped and it will not stop as we face into the winter and the restrictions continue to impact our local communities.
“Many of Manchester’s children are going hungry and they are particularly vulnerable during school holidays when they cannot benefit from the meal voucher programme.
“In parallel with the brilliant work being done individually by Marcus Rashford, we’re proud that the club continues to step in alongside FareShare, the Foundation and their partner schools to help fill this void.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking during a visit to a hospital in Reading, said: “We don’t want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas, certainly not as a result of any inattention by this Government – and you are not going to see that.”
The Prime Minister said he had not spoken to Rashford since June “but what he is doing is terrific”.
He added: “We support the local councils – indeed we fund the local councils and many of the organisations that are helping in this period – but we are also uplifting Universal Credit by £1,000 and we think that is one of the best ways you can help families in this tough time.
“I totally understand the issue of holiday hunger, it is there, we have to deal with it. The debate is how do you deal with it.”
West Ham joint chairman David Sullivan has personally donated £25,000 to FareShare, the club have announced.
Sullivan said: “Marcus Rashford has done such a fantastic job of raising awareness and leading the way in tackling this very important issue, which impacts so many youngsters in our local communities up and down the country. It is a privilege to be able to help.”
Newcastle also announced that they were teaming with their charity arm, the Newcastle United Foundation, to help deliver hundreds of food parcels to children in the city.
The Foundation’s head, Steve Beharall, said: “Our work in hundreds of communities across the region means our staff understand the huge impact that holiday hunger has on children every school holiday.”
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