By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
I’m not a Manchester United supporter. But I am a big fan of Marcus Rashford.
No introduction is needed of this Manchester United and English national team football player for UK readers. I’m not going to discuss his sporting prowess in this post – although from the video clips I’ve seen, that’s formidable.
This post will address just the latest small installment in his ongoing campaign to get food to hungry people throughout the UK. Rashford knows what it’s like to be hungry – and despite all the perks that go with being a top-class footballer, hasn’t forgotten his past. To those unfamiliar with the Rashford story or who want to see some content, please see my earlier post, Let Them Eat Cake: COVID and Food Donations.
I check out Rashford’s twitter feed occasionally, and here’s what I turned up this time.
Upon seeing that 50% of UK Healthy Start vouchers went unclaimed each week, Rashford acted. More on that in a moment.
First, some background on the UK’s Healthy Start program, which provides weekly vouchers to subsidize the purchase of fresh food by pregnant women and those who have children under the age of four. From the NHS website:
What is Healthy Start?
If you’re pregnant or have children under the age of 4 you can get free vouchers or payments every 4 weeks to spend on:
- cow’s mil
- fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetable
- infant formula milk
- fresh, dried, and tinned pulses
I must mention that making this benefit available largely via vouchers more or less guarantees limited uptake – a feature, rather than a bug, no doubt, to neoliberal proponents of this and similar voucher schemes. The amount on offer is also small, ranging from about three pounds if you’re pregnant, to just over six pounds if you have a child under the age of one; I think you can claim multiple benefits if you qualify under more than one category.
Rashford didn’t succumb to such cynicism. Instead, he used the pulpit of his well-followed twitter feed to ask some of the leading UK food retailers about their policies on Healthy Start.
Healthy Start scheme – do you qualify?
Go to https://t.co/421PFF3wjY
Taskforce members, can you share a bit more info on redeeming value in-store so I can repost?@AldiUK @asda @coopuk @IcelandFoods @LidlGB @Morrisons @sainsburys @Tesco @waitrose @marksandspencer
A big thanks!
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) March 29, 2021
Jerri-Lynn here. Here are some responses. UK readers will recognise that these are some of the leading food retailers in Britain:
Hi Marcus, customers redeeming Healthy Start vouchers in Sainsbury’s will receive a £2 coupon to use towards fresh & frozen fruit and veg. https://t.co/2qdlbZGK8b. Thanks, Gordon
— Sainsbury’s (@sainsburys) March 29, 2021
Hi Marcus, no problem.
Healthy start vouchers can be redeemed in store at our checkouts, and customers just need to pass the voucher to the checkout assistant, who will scan it for them. All Tesco stores also accept Free School meal vouchers.
— Tesco News (@tesconews) March 29, 2021
If you’re eligible for Healthy Start vouchers simply take them to your nearest store, where the additional £1 will be automatically added at the till.
Our colleagues know that the voucher value has increased from £3.10 to £4.10. https://t.co/ofdQiF1ap2
— Co-op (@coopuk) March 29, 2021
Hi Marcus, redeeming the vouchers is easy. Eligible customers just need to hand them to our colleagues at the till to get £4.25 off these essentials for their Lidl’uns:
🐄 Cow’s milk
🥦 Fresh, frozen or tinned fruit & veg
🍼 Infant formula milk
🥫 Fresh, dried, & tinned pulses
— @LidlGB (@LidlGB) March 29, 2021
Hi Marcus, our customers can present Healthy Start vouchers at our checkouts and our colleagues will be only too happy to scan them.
— Asda (@asda) March 29, 2021
Hi Marcus, thanks for getting in touch. We accept Healthy Start Vouchers and also offer a ‘top up’ of £1.50 for customers to spend on the existing qualifying foods, including frozen and tinned items. The voucher simply needs to be handed to our Partner at the checkout. – Dean
— Waitrose & Partners (@waitrose) March 30, 2021
Hi Marcus. We gladly accept Healthy Start vouchers in all of our Iceland and @FoodWarehouse stores. Customers simply need to hand their voucher in at the checkout and the discount will be applied to their shop🛒
— Iceland Foods ❄️ (@IcelandFoods) March 30, 2021
Jerri-Lynn here. Look, I realize that an additional three quid a week – for those who qualify – is not enough to feed many of the UK’s hungry. But for some, it must surely help.
Kudos to Rashford for spotlighting this issue – and making it clear to UK food retailers that someone other than the beneficiaries is paying attention to their performance. While I wait for the great political reset that may or may not happen during my lifetime, I think that if more of the 1% took on some responsibility for feeding the hungry, maybe there wouldn’t be quite so many hungry people.
See what Rashford ha helped achieve during the past year. And note that Rashford is 23 years old, and this is not his day job:
‘FareShare has shared the equivalent of 128.5 million meals in the year since March 23 last year – or four every second and more than double the number in the previous 12 months.’https://t.co/q74tVy3q1a
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) April 7, 2021