Free school meals: Boris Johnson admits he hasn’t spoken to Marcus Rashford since June

Boris Johnson has admitted he hasn’t spoken to Marcus Rashford since June – but has praised the footballer’s “terrific” food poverty campaign.

The Manchester United forward is leading a high-profile campaign for the expansion of free school meals and also for the provision of meals during all school holidays for those in need.

The government has so far refused to bow to growing pressure over the issue, despite having previously performed a U-turn prior to the summer holidays when they provided meal vouchers to around 1.3 million children in England.

Despite not extending the voucher scheme for this October half-term and having resisted calls to extend the scheme until Easter next year, Mr Johnson on Monday vowed that ministers “will do everything in our power to make sure that no kid, no child goes hungry this winter during the holidays”.

He added: “I haven’t spoken to Marcus since June but, as I say, I think what he’s doing is terrific.”

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that the pair had “been communicating”, although Rashford disputed this via a post on his Twitter account.

Mr Johnson said there was a “debate” over how best to provide holiday meals for children during the coronavirus crisis, as he pointed to the government’s uplift of Universal Credit and a £63m fund for local councils announced more than four months ago.

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Some local councils, including Conservative-run local authorities, have pledged to continue the holiday voucher scheme in recent days.

And small businesses and organisations have offered meals to struggling families in their local areas.

The prime minister said: “We support the local councils and, indeed, we fund the local councils and many of the organisations that are helping in this period.

“But we’re also, as I said, uplifing 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.

“We’re very proud of the support that we’ve given, I’ve said repeatedly throughout this crisis that the government will support families and businesses, jobs and livelihoods across the country.

“We’re going to continue to do that. We don’t want to see children going hungry this winter, this Christmas.

“Certainly not as a result of any inattention by this government. You’re not going to see that.”

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