In a year where sadness, isolation and despair have been everywhere we look, Manchester United FC and England footballer Marcus Rashford has become a source for positivity and progression, becoming a household name in the UK not just for his impressive work on the pitch, but also for his truly inspiring challenge against child poverty and hunger.
The lightning quick forward first hit the back pages in 2016 as he enjoyed an electric start to his Manchester United senior career, grabbing 4 goals in his first 2 appearances at the age of just 17; but in recent times he’s not only been the star of the back pages as his fight against child hunger propelled him to the forefront of every newspapers front page. He hit the headlines in June as he played a huge part in forcing the government into a U-turn , urging Parliament to continue their food voucher scheme in England through the summer holidays, ensuring that 1.3 million vulnerable children who are registered for free school meals wouldn’t struggle for food whilst their schools are closed for the summer months.
Rashford used his fame and platform to help out millions, an admirable act that has more to it than meets the eye as Marcus himself was a recipient of free school meals, as he uses his own personal experience of poverty to drive himself into a position where he can make positive changes to families in similar situations.
Growing up in Wythenshawe, Manchester, Marcus was raised by his single mother Mel, who worked full-time to provide for him and his two brothers: Dane and Dwaine. An upbringing that was riddled with uphill battles and struggles, as Marcus explained to BBC Breakfast:
“I remember feeling hunger as a child, but I was never angry at my mum because I also understood how hard my mum was working. We used to go to a shop called Pound World and schedule out the week, we would get 7 yoghurts and have one each day.”
He later revealed on his Twitter page.
“I remember the sound of my mum crying herself to sleep after working 14-hour long shifts, not knowing how to make ends meet.”
'At just 22, Marcus Rashford has already carved himself a path to becoming a national treasure'.
Marcus has strong feelings concerning child hunger, as he himself has lived through the struggles that many still suffer from today. He has the personal and emotional ties to the situation that spark his fight against poverty in a way that most government officials would not have.
In the summer of 2020, the government stated that they would not be continuing the food voucher scheme throughout the summer, as has been the case in previous years. However, on 16th June the government changed their mind following a campaign led by Marcus Rashford who penned an open letter detailing the benefits that many families would feel should the scheme continue throughout the summer break, alongside sharing his own personal experiences with the scheme. This came after Marcus had already raised £20 million working alongside charity Fare Share. The credit due to the footballer is astronomical as his campaign ensured that 1.3 million recipients were able to access £15 per week in vouchers to spend in supermarkets, keeping children fed during their weeks off school and decreasing the amount of stress and hunger that poverty-stricken families feel over the summer months.
The effort, mindset and empathy shown by Marcus Rashford is incredibly admirable, and should be an example to all young sportspeople regarding how to use their elevated platform for the force of good.
His incredible fight has been acknowledged and praised by the public and celebrities alike, so much so that it was announced on the University of Manchester's website that he would be presented with an honorary doctorate degree from The University of Manchester to “recognise his remarkable campaign against child poverty off the field and outstanding performances on the pitch.”
The praise did not stop there, as Marcus was included in the 2020 Queens Birthday Honours list; he is to be awarded with an MBE (Member of the British Empire), one of the highest honours a person can receive.
Following the announcement, Marcus took to Twitter and Instagram to state: “As a young black man from Wythenshawe, never did I think I would be accepting an MBE, never mind an MBE at the age of 22.”
Even when receiving an MBE, the fight against child poverty does not escape his mind as he went on to urge the Prime Minister to extend the food voucher scheme further to cover the October half term, describing it as “another sticking plaster, but one that will give the parents of millions of children in the UK just one less thing to worry about.”
This further shows his dedication to the cause and his passion for fighting the issue of child hunger, and whilst he is deservedly proud to be honoured in the way that he has, the awards do not mean the fight is over , as Marcus vows to continue campaigning until there is not one hungry child in the UK.
The campaign continues with Rashford spearheading a task force , joining up with many of the UKs major supermarkets to form the “Child Food Poverty Task Force” to call for the creation of a “National Food Strategy”, that aims to expand free school meals, school holiday support and the Healthy Start voucher scheme. The first step involved Marcus writing to every MP in England to urge them to back this campaign, which specifically aims at securing:
· Free school meals for every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, including an additional 1.5 million 16-year olds.
· Expanding food and activities holiday provision for all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1 million children
· Increasing Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25 per week.
The effort, determination and fighting spirit shown consistently by Marcus Rashford is inspiring to everyone who hears his story. Young black men growing up in rough areas with little money can look to him as an example of how to use their struggles as incentive to change the situation for future generations.
At just 22, Marcus Rashford has already carved himself a path to becoming a national treasure, and considering the amount of change he’s already made to society, it seems like there’s much more to come from Wythenshaws’ very own superhero.
Credits; BBC Breakfast interview with Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford Twitter