Marcus Rashford is a 22 year-old footballer who plays as a forward for Manchester United and England. Despite these unprecedented times, Rashford has managed to bring some light to the UK through his relentless campaigning over the introduction of free food vouchers over the six-week holiday for children eligible for free school meals. Marcus Rashford has managed to use his large platform and large following as a high-profile football player to call out the government and in particular the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, over an issue he felt needed to be addressed.
This all began during the coronavirus lockdown after the government announced that they would be providing food vouchers to families whose children qualify for free meals. However, they then stated that this would not continue outside of the school term, meaning during the school holidays these same families would not be receiving the free food vouchers. In response to this, the footballer addressed the PM through a letter expressing his concerns. For weeks, campaigners have been calling for change over the entire issue, but these campaigns have only really come to light in early to mid-June. At the beginning of May, families were also calling out the issue as there was a lot of strain on poorer families within the UK to not only feed their children but also themselves. In fact, many families with children were turning to food banks as they felt that the pressure was too much, with one parent even stating “we go hungry so we can feed our children”. Words like this are extremely disheartening to read and this allows you to understand the gravity of the issue of free school meals for those eligible – especially as we are still facing a global pandemic.
The support structure in England estimates that the costs of the “covid summer food fund” amounts to £15 a week per recipient, thus, meaning that the entire project will cost within the region of £120m. This is because as of January 2019, approximately 1.3 million school children in England alone were eligible to claim for free school meals, which accounts for 15.4% of all pupils educated by the state. The government U-turn has sparked a conversation amongst parents, stating that it has really given them a lifeline and has reduced the amount of stress they would have been facing had they had to try to provide meals for their children outside of term time. For example, a mother of three teenage children said that the U-turn “takes away that worry of the six-week summer holiday”. Despite the government finally making the positive change, some people are still frustrated that it took an extremely publicized campaign in order for the ultimate decision to be made.
The football community
A lot of praise has been directed in the direction of Marcus Rashford as he has been campaigning on social media over a cause that is important to him as he has previously publicly talked about his struggles with food poverty as a child. The Prime Minister, when talking about the U-turn and the impact Rashford had on it, said “I thank him for what he’s done”. Rashford himself later went onto Twitter and said “just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.” He went on to say “the wellbeing of children should ALWAYS be a priority.” England legend Gary Lineker has been one of Rashford’s main advocates during this entire saga and has praised him on social media and even went on to say “the country should stick to footballers to run it”. He even called out Boris Johnson using a football analogy when talking about the situation when he tagged the PM in a post saying “you can assist this wonderful young man in scoring the most important goal of his life. Food for hungry children should be the easiest pass you ever make.”
Marcus Rashford of course has many rivals including rivalling football clubs Manchester City and Liverpool FC. Both teams praised the young man for his exceptional actions. Manchester City (Manchester United’s closest rivals) tweeted: “Fantastic work Marcus Rashford, making Manchester proud.” Liverpool FC also tweeted: “Children within our region will benefit because of the actions of this remarkable role model.” Referring to Rashford. The young man has made a great impact, not only on the footballing community but to the rest of the UK. Others with platforms as big as his will take inspiration from his bravery and they will know there is no limit to what good they can bring.
By Chikomborero Madanhi