The England striker and impassioned food poverty campaigner who caused a government U-turn this summer.

We live in strange and frequently unaccountable times. As we’re all sickeningly well acquainted with, 2020 has borne witness to a global pandemic necessitating us all to lockdown; to eat out to help out; to abide by curfew laws; and to socialise in bubbles and capped numbers. In any other year, the moment that it fell to a young and brilliant footballer to force a government U-turn may have come as a surprise to many. But these are days in which even the habitually and loudly reviled Piers Morgan has people who formerly loathed him nodding along approvingly at his bulldoggish holding to account of ministers. In short, then, this a year in which anything can happen – and often not in a good way.


Thank goodness, then, for the good surprises when they come – even if the reasons they have arisen are dire. And, specifically, three cheers for the philanthropic might and determination, as well as the sensitivity and care, of Marcus Rashford.

It all began during the initial lockdown when the Manchester United forward teamed up with poverty and food waste charity, FareShare, helping to raise £20m for those children missing out on the free school meals they would have been entitled to but, as a result of school closures, were not getting. The initiative reached some three million children across the nation. It was, then, a marked success.

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But this charitable triumph begged a glaring and urgent question – one which Rashford asked the government directly in an open letter: what would it take to end child poverty? It took just one day for that rallying cry – which garnered support from the likes of Gary Lineker and Sir Keir Starmer – to prove the catalyst for a change in policy, which saw the government allocate £120m to extend free school meals into the summer holidays for those children in need.


In September, Rashford went on to set up a taskforce with several UK food brands in an attempt to tackle child food poverty. For him, the cause is personal: the youngest of five siblings, he grew up in Wythenshawe, south of Manchester, and while his mother worked extremely hard, there wasn’t always enough food to go around, which necessitated the family to go to food banks from time to time. From this lived experience, he understands well how irresponsible and unfair it is when MPs tweet suggestions that parents unable to feed their children are failing them.


We adore his Instagram account, which mingles football with advocating for social justice, and serious helpings of both drive and humility in equal measure. And for all he did, and continues to do, for every one of those three million children in need, and for being one of the most inspirational figures of 2020: Marcus Rashford, you’re our hero.

By Nancy Alsop
October 2020

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