Marcus Rashford is pleading with the people of Bolton to claim food vouchers if they are able - as fewer than two-thirds of families eligible for are using them, figures show.

The Manchester United forward has called on health professionals to boost awareness of the Healthy Start scheme, which helps pregnant women and struggling families with young children to buy basic food.

NHS data shows that in the four weeks to July 18, 2,489 people in Bolton were receiving vouchers from the scheme, which are worth between £4.25 and £8.50 a week - and can be spent on healthy fruit and vegetables, milk or baby formula.

But they represent just 65 per cent of those identified as eligible for the benefit, with the figures showing there may be another 1,362 families in the area missing out on valuable support.

In a letter published in the British Medical Journal, Mr Rashford, a member of the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, urged health professionals to spread the word about the scheme.

The letter said: "The scheme has proven benefits in improving access to healthy food for pregnant women and children under the age of four.

"More than 40 per cent of those eligible for the vouchers are still not registered for the scheme and I'm confident that the majority of these parents can be found in communities just like mine, where I grew up – no internet, no high street, no word of mouth.

"Long term, sustainable change can only come when communities work towards a common goal.

"No child deserves to be starting life 20 yards behind any other from the day they are born, just because of where they are born and the circumstances they are born into."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said the Government is committed to ensuring every child receives the best possible start in life.