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England footballer, Marcus Rashford, is proving to be a hero on and off the pitch. To recap: during lockdown, the 22-year-old Manchester United forward was at the forefront of a campaign to give the country’s poorest children free school meals during the holidays to try and better the ongoing child hunger issue in the UK.
On 15th June, Rashford wrote an open letter to the UK government calling on them to end UK child poverty. Just days later the government pivoted on the issue and announced a change in policy regarding the extension of free school meals for children during the summer holidays. His remarkable work has made him a household name for those with no interest in football and even won him an MBE in the 2020 Queen’s Honours List.
On Tuesday 20th October, Rashford tweeted the link to a petition to extend free school meals to vulnerable children throughout the upcoming October half term and Christmas holidays, stating “It’s time we put party politics aside and worked together to find a long-term sustainable solution to child food poverty in the UK.”
The petition has gained over 880,000 signatures (and continues to clock up), well over the 100,000 required to take it to parliament. However, on Wednesday last week, 322 Conservative MPs voted against the motion to extend free meals when children will be out of school and may be forced to go hungry.
Rashford voiced his disappointment on his Twitter feed laying out the facts. He said of the decision, “Paying close attention to the Commons today and to those who are willing to turn a blind eye to the needs of our most vulnerable children, 2.2M of them who currently qualify for Free School Meals. 42% newly registered. Not to mention the 1.5M children who currently don’t qualify.”
Why keep punishing our most disadvantaged? Give our children a chance.
All eyes on the Commons 👀
And just for clarity, the #endchildfoodpoverty debate on a long-term sustainable framework to combat this issue is still to come.
This is not going away and neither am I…
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 21, 2020
Since March, 32% of families have suffered a drop in income, further worsening the problem with even more children having little to no access to food other than their school meals, and it is thought that the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and those better off is around 75% – a direct result of school closures.
“Why keep punishing our most disadvantaged?” tweeted Rashford, adding, “This is not going away and neither am I…”
The tweet has struck a chord with many and now Rashford’s feed is awash with local businesses, cafes, restaurants, taxi firms and local councils backing the cause, pledging to help in a number of ways from donating money to charities involved, plenshing food banks and feeding families most in need.
Rashford is pinning each and every tweet from such businesses, councils and independents offering their help, and scrolling through the feed in real time is nothing short of inspiring, cementing that fact that people really do come together in times of need.
A host of big names have backed Rashford,: London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeting, “If you need reminding that our country is far better and more generous than this Government, have a look at @MarcusRashford’s twitter feed this morning.”
Gary Linkeker added, “The timeline of @MarcusRashford shows what this country is truly about. People uniting to help others rather than the tribality and hatred that has torn us apart. We can have different views, political or otherwise, and still be respectful and kind. Be a mate, don’t hate.”
Scrolling through Rashford's feed in real time is nothing short of inspiring. It cements that fact that people really do come together in times of need.
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Melanie Maynard House 💫 A new depot to support the growing need for @fareshareuk in Greater Manchester. The real superstars in this country can be found in the heart of most cities, towns and villages, working tirelessly to support our most vulnerable. To you all, THANK YOU for continuing to catch us when we fall ♥️
Whatever your political stance, we can all agree that Marcus Rashford is a unique and inspiring role model, a modern footballer with skills that lie not only on the pitch but in speaking out and speaking up for those less fortunate. The 22-year-old knows firsthand what it’s like to be one of those – he has spoken out about how he and his siblings relied on such school meal vouchers growing up.
As we head into half term, Rashford’s work will yet again help thousands of vulnerable young people up and down the country in the coming weeks. Momentum has gathered over the weekend and with many more business, media figures, thousands of doctors, football clubs and the general public helping the cause, Labour MPs are threatening to push for another Commons vote. The pressure is on for the PM to meet with Rashford to discuss the campaign. Something tells us he’s not going to stop here.
Want to help? Here’s how…
Sign the petition to end child food poverty here.
The petition has already gained well over the 100,000 signatures needed to take it to parliament but the numbers are still clocking up and will only help to get No.10 to make a U-turn.
Donate to FareShare here.
FareShare are the UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors and are heavily involved in Rashford’s campaign .
Donate to The Felix Project here.
The Felix Project deliver fresh food to people in London who need it most.
Donate to the Trussell Trust here.
Trussell Trust supports a nationwide network of food banks and provides emergency food and support to people locked in poverty.
Donate to the Magic Breakfast here
The Magic Breakfast is a charity that works with schools to ensure no child goes hungry by providing healthy breakfast food and expert support to help identify and reach those pupils at risk of hunger.
Keep up to date with Marcus Rashford’s campaign by following him on Twitter and the hashtag #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY