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Marcus Rashford hails 'superstar' Britons for supporting his free meals campaign

Marcus Rashford has hailed 'superstars' across Britain for supporting his campaign for free school meals.

The Manchester United star, 22, is pushing Boris Johnson towards another U-turn after his petition gained nearly a million signatures.

The England striker said, according to The Sun: 'To all the local business owners, to the food bank volunteers, to the teachers, to the carers, to the campaigners, this is your moment.

Marcus Rashford has hailed 'superstars' across Britain for supporting his campaign for free school meals

'Our children have felt the warmth and the compassion of their community and I am grateful beyond words.

'We have proved that even when we have little, we still have something to give. I am truly humbled by what I have witnessed over the last couple of days, I couldn't be prouder to call Britain my home, and to call football my profession.

'To all of you climbing into bed tonight after a hard day supporting our most needy, I salute you. You are the real superstars. I'm in awe of you all. Thank you.'

The Manchester United star, 22, is pushing Boris Johnson towards another U-turn after his petition gained nearly a million signatures

Many restaurants and cafes around the UK have pledged to give free meals to families in need during the school holidays

His comments come after he appeared to force Boris Johnson at another climbdown on free school meals during holidays as furious Tories accused the PM of 'shooting himself in both feet' by bungling the policy. 

Mr Johnson is preparing to pour hundreds of millions of pounds into holiday clubs in an attempt to defuse the row.

It is too late for the scheme to be implemented over half-term, but Mr Johnson is considering putting it in place for the Christmas holidays. 

The Prime Minister yesterday insisted the Government will ‘do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry’.

But he resisted calls to perform a U-turn over his refusal to extend free school meals for children in England over the Christmas holiday. 

The Prime Minister yesterday insisted the Government will ‘do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry’

Staff at the Rumour Cafe in Sheerness, Kent, prepare free school meals for children over the half term holidays today

On a visit to a hospital in Reading, Mr Johnson said it was right that Universal Credit had been increased by £20 a week while £63million has been provided to local authorities to help those who are struggling to afford food and essentials.

Downing Street signalled Chancellor Rishi Sunak could announce extra support next month in the spending review.

It comes as Rashford is set to be omitted from the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist despite being the bookies' odds-on favourite to win the award.

The Manchester United forward has been tipped to claim the prize in December following his high-profile and popular campaign.

But Sportsmail understands Rashford is likely to miss out based on long-standing criteria for the award which state that the shortlist must reflect 'sporting achievements'.

Marcus Rashford is set to miss out on the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist

The Man United star was odds-on favourite due to his campaigning for free school meals

A judging panel will meet next month to decide the shortlist and, while the criteria for 2020 has not yet been confirmed and the panel have the right to make alterations, it has been set in stone for several years.

It is not anticipated to change unless there is a reaction to public pressure.

BBC bosses are aware of the potential for a backlash if Rashford is not included and would look to honour him in some way during the show on December 20 — which is being held in Salford without the usual large audience because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Rashford would be in the running for the Helen Rollason Award, given for 'outstanding achievement in the face of adversity', or a new prize could be created to recognise his bid to end child hunger.

Public support for the England international had seen him leap ahead of Lewis Hamilton

The shortlist is usually announced at the end of November although in 2018 it was only revealed on the night of the programme — an option which the BBC may choose to repeat this year in an attempt to avoid a long-running debate about Rashford.

Public support for Rashford has seen him leap above Formula One record-breaker Lewis Hamilton as the bookies' favourite for the trophy but that is causing the BBC a major headache. 

The current SPOTY conditions state: 'The panel will select a shortlist using the following criteria: reflects UK sporting achievements on the national and/or international stage; represents the breadth and depth of UK sports; and takes into account 'impact' of the person's sporting achievement beyond the sport in question.'

The popular 22-year-old is set to miss out as the award is in relation to sporting achievements

The SPOTY shortlist is decided by a panel of usually 12 people, which includes representatives from the BBC and the sports industry and is chaired by Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport.

The panel is given a list of the top sports people of the year compiled by the SPOTY production team, although they can consider other candidates.

The panel then produce a shortlist based on a 'consensus view'.

If a consensus cannot be reached, a vote takes place. The criteria has not changed since 2012 — the year after the BBC faced criticism for having no women on a 10-person shortlist.

BBC News have covered Rashford's campaign extensively this year.

It is understood Rashford would be in the running for the Helen Rollason Award in December 

However, Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray was castigated on Twitter last weekend after he introduced coverage of United's game with Chelsea by saying: 'Whether you agree with Marcus Rashford's causes or not, there's surely only admiration for his continued commitment to them.'

Mowbray explained that 'impartiality broadcast rules mean things have to be phrased a certain way' before deleting his social media account.

West Ham co-owner David Sullivan has joined Rashford's push for free school meals during holidays by donating £25,000, while Manchester United will provide 5,000 meals for vulnerable children over the October half-term holiday in partnership with the charity FareShare.  

Government to end free meals row by funding children's holiday clubs

Boris Johnson is planning on giving local councils extra money to fund holiday clubs to solve the free school meals row, according to reports.

The Holiday Activity and Food programme is the brainchild of Henry Dimbleby, the Government's food tsar and co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, and was piloted across 17 local authorities over the summer.

According to The Daily Telegraph, it would allow children to be given at least one meal a day outside of school time, and could be combined with extra study time to help pupils catch up on missed education.

Sandwiches being made at The Watering Can in Greenbank Park, Liverpool, for distribution to children during the school holidays

It is too late for the scheme to be implemented over half-term, but the paper reported Mr Johnson was considering putting it in place for the Christmas holidays.

The Government is facing mounting public anger at its refusal to extend free school meals into half-term and beyond following a campaign spearheaded by England footballer Marcus Rashford.

Dr Robert Winston, a Labour peer who became a household name through his documentaries on child development, warned Mr Dimbleby's plans did not go far enough.

Speaking on Newsnight, he said he had read the report "from cover to cover" and added: "It doesn't remotely cover the problem."

Dr Winston said poor nutrition led to "a rise in depression and decrease in cognitive ability - you can't learn when you're starving".

A petition started by Manchester United star Rashford for free meals to be extended in England over the school holidays was nearing one million signatures on Monday evening.

Businesses, community groups and councils - including Tory-run administrations - have answered his call and provided thousands of free meals for children as schools in large parts of England began their October break.

The Prime Minister appeared to be in good spirits during his visit to the Royal Berkshire Hospital this morning despite the ongoing row

The Prime Minister insisted on Monday the Government would not allow children to go hungry.

Mr Johnson highlighted the money given to councils and said Universal Credit was "one of the best ways you can help families in this tough time".

Universal Credit had been increased by £20 a week while £63 million was announced in June by ministers to help local authorities feed vulnerable families - although officials expect that money to have largely been spent already.

"I totally understand the issue of holiday hunger, it is there, we have to deal with it," Mr Johnson said.

"The debate is how do you deal with it."

Rashford has used his social media profile to highlight examples of businesses that have pledged to help with meals for local children.

Writing on Twitter on Monday evening, he called for businesses to let him know how many meals they had supplied on the first day of half-term.

Rashford's club, in partnership with the Manchester United Foundation and the charity FareShare, will provide around 5,000 meals from the Old Trafford kitchens to children from local schools.

The Government's social mobility watchdog also supported Rashford, saying 600,000 more children were in poverty than in 2012.

"We believe the Government should do all it can to start reversing that trend," a Social Mobility Commission spokesman said.

"It should begin by ensuring that all children are properly fed."

Sir Keir Starmer has previously confirmed Labour will force another Commons vote on the issue if ministers do not relent in time for the Christmas holidays.

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