Responding to comments made by a Tory MP on Twitter, Marcus Rashford pointed out why saying it’s a parent’s “job” to feed their kids is so damaging for families who are struggling.
After he successfully campaigned for the government to continue free school meal vouchers into the summer holidays earlier this year, Rashford has joined forces with some of the UK’s biggest food brands to create a taskforce to try and cut child food poverty.
But alongside his activism on the ground, Rashford has also been vocal about his experience of food poverty growing up on his online platforms, and advocated for greater understanding of what it’s like to live in poverty – a message he was keen to share on Twitter over the weekend, after he spoke out against a Tory MP for saying it’s “a parent’s job to feed their kids”.
After praising the success of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme on Twitter, Kevin Hollinrake – the MP for Thirsk and Malton – was asked why a footballer, not the government, had taken a stand “for the hungry children in our society”.
In response, Hollinrake wrote: “Where they can, it’s a parents job to feed their children.”
Taking to Twitter to criticise the MP’s message, Rashford explained why comments such as Hollinrake’s can be damaging for families who feel ashamed to seek help.
“I would urge you to talk to families before tweeting,” Rashford wrote. “To this day, I haven’t met one parent who hasn’t wanted or felt the responsibility to feed their children.”
He continued: “Put to the side that this comment came from an MP. It’s comments like this that prevent people from speaking their truth and asking for help. We need to start uplifting each other.”
In response, Hollinrake said he was “very happy to debate” the subject with Rashford “in any open forum”.
At a time when the inequalities in society have been exacerbated by the pandemic and recession, it’s even more important that we call out damaging comments which only serve to worsen the stigma that already exists around living in poverty.
Seeking and receiving help is not something to be ashamed of – and we need to challenge the harmful assumption that accessing government support to put food on the table is some kind of parental failure.
Rashford’s comments are a reminder that, at the very least, it’s all of our responsibility’s to hold our government to account for the inequalities we see around us.