Marcus Rashford 'overwhelmed' after PM's climbdown over free school meals

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Marcus Rashford of Manchester United looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group H stage match between Manchester United and RB Leipzig at Old Trafford on October 28, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Marcus Rashford has been campaigning on the issue of free school meals for months. (Getty)

Marcus Rashford has said he is “overwhelmed” after Boris Johnson pledged £396 million towards free school meals in a dramatic U-turn.

The prime minister had been resisting calls from the Manchester United footballer for the government to provide food during the winter holidays for schoolchildren who receive free meals in term time.

But on Saturday, Johnson reportedly called Rashford and informed him of the new plans to support children from low income families.

Rashford said the move would “improve the lives of near 1.7 million children”, but added there is “still so much more to do”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right), with Ian Ritchie from Hillingdon and District Royal British Legion, lay a wreath of remembrance at Uxbridge War Memorial in west London, ahead of Remembrance Sunday. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson reportedly called the Manchester United star to tell him of the plans. (Getty)

"Following the game today, I had a good conversation with the prime minister to better understand the proposed plan, and I very much welcome the steps that have been taken to combat child food poverty in the UK,” Rashford said in a statement posted on social media.

"The intent the government have shown today is nothing but positive and they should be recognised for that.

"The steps made today will improve the lives of near 1.7 million children in the UK over the next 12 months, and that can only be celebrated."

Read more: Schools start preparations now to ensure pupils do not go hungry over Christmas

Rashford said the recent campaign had “demonstrated the power of kindness and compassion”, describing seeing the support it had received as “the greatest moment of my life”.

"I want to take this moment to reflect on what has occurred over the last couple of weeks. I am so proud of 'us' as a collective,” he added.

“I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of empathy and understanding.

"I am fully committed to this cause, and I will fight for the rest of my life for it, because in my mind, no child should ever go hungry in the United Kingdom."

Watch: Government in dramatic U-turn over free school meals

Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said: "We want to make sure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter."

But shadow education secretary Kate Green criticised the government’s delay in announcing the support package.

“This should have been announced weeks ago to help the children at risk of going hungry over half term," Green said.

"This announcement is a necessary starting point, but ministers must ensure no child goes hungry, and bring forward a long-term strategy to tackle child poverty".