From the past: Marcus Rashford on the problem of chιld poverty in Britain


“If you’re an athlete, you fail all the time. When you lose a game, you get ready for the next one. “If you lose in the cup final, you come back stronger next season,” says Marcus Rashford, the star forward for Manchester United and England. Rashford became a hero off the pitch when his figҺt for free school meals for kids in lockdown (and beyond) became one of the few good news stories of 2020.

But the season was very different from the rough and wild Premiership season. The happy and smart 22-year-old star says from his home in Manchester, “In this case, the failure would have been me not standing up for all those people who didn’t have a voice.” Rashford is on the cover of British Vogue in September 2020, along with 18 other activists from around the world, including model and mentаl health worker Adwoa Aboah. “If I didn’t stand up and sаy, ‘This is not okay, and it needs to change,’ I would have let down everyone who helped me get here.’” In fact, I would have let down my 10-year-old self.”

It was about them. “This was something I could relate to,” he says now. “This was something I had done before. That my mum had been through. That we had been through as a family,” he says about his childhood in Wythenshawe, which is in the south of Manchester. It was a promise I made to my mom that I would help her if I ever had the chance, and that chance came along. Yes, I did take a chance. But I cut down on the rιsk by learning more. I had listened and talked to the people who were most hurt. I had been working for FareShare before the lockdown, so I knew from experience how parents had come to depend on food banks and food coupons.

Within a day of Rashford’s letter getting viral, the government made an amazing U-turn and promised that free school meals would continue all summer. The result was miraculous: the court of public opinion had embraced a young football player who was real and had a powerful story to tell. He says over and over that it’s not about him, though. “For weeks, I had been listening to parents, carers, headteachers, and my partner FareShare tell their stories. I felt it was my duty to give them a chance to share theirs and be heard.” There was talk, but no one was paying attention. I’m not a politician by any means, but I did have a voice and a stage that I could use to at least speak out.

Anyone with a political view has said in the past that football players often don’t sаy anything because they don’t want to upset their fans. But Rashford is quick to defend the game. “A lot of athletes and clubs work in the neighbourhoods.” Even if you don’t hear about it all the time, that doesn’t meаn they aren’t. From a young age, I’ve known that I want to use my voice to help other people, and I’m lucky to have a great group of people who have always told me to be myself. This was a touchy subject, so I just had to be myself. No one could tell my childhood story better than me.

He goes on, “Not many people can disagree with the fact that kids shouldn’t skip meals and go to bed hungry.” “I was when the U-turn happened.” Up until that point, we hadn’t heard much from the people who made the important decisions, but my quickly turned to pride. The response from the public also gave people much-needed hope. He says, “British people care, and we showed how powerful it is when we work together to make a difference in so many lives.” “Should we have had to?” Without a doubt not. But we showed that we care about each other, even though we were in some disagreements.

A lot of people have become activists in the past few months, which has really moved him. “I come from a Black family, and one day I will have Black children.” I want my kids to grow up in a world where everyone has the same chances to do well in life, no matter what colour their skin is. There is no such thing as a more important person. The great thing about the government’s U-turn was that it brought us all together, no matter our race, gender, religion, or background. We all agreed that all of our kids should be taken care of. We both felt that way at the same time. That was a strong moment. “That kind of pride has never beenheard of in me before.”

He warns, “But we are only scratching the surface of the problem.” “There are too many poor children in the UK. We gained some time by making the U-turn. The food coupon plan isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. Food security is one of our most basic needs, but the methods we have in place don’t always help those who are weakest. People who need to help families and children get food need a system that will last. This is especially important now that the pаndemic is over and unemployment is so high.

He’s only just beginning. He says with determination, “I’m having the conversations and asking the questions, and I hope we can keep moving this forward in a good way.” “There should be no child hunger in this country,” she said.

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