Marcus Rashford, has been at Manchester United since he was a boy, and he was initially best known for his footballing exploits with the club. Having come through United’s academy, Rashford burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old.
However, in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, Rashford began a campaign which resulted in a government announcement that free school meals would be provided to disadvantaged children over the school holidays. In the campaign, Rashford drew upon his experience of going hungry as a child and the ‘hardships’ that his mother went through to put food on the table during his youth.
After the overwhelming success of his campaign against child food poverty, campaigner Rashford was awarded an MBE and has since announced plans for further initiatives around social justice.
Marcus Rashford Free School Meals
During the first Coronavirus lockdown of 2020, many thousands of children who relied on free school meals were out of school and thus unable to access that provision. In response, Rashford began campaigning on the issue of a free school meal.
During the Easter holidays of 2020 and the first Covid lockdown, the Government had made a one off commitment to fund free school meals for eligible children over the Easter holidays.
Rashford began by sharing posts to his Twitter feed from local businesses across England pledging free meals to vulnerable children during the May half-term holidays.
In each tweet, Rashford placed a location marker highlighting where people could get help. The government subsequently extended the provision of free school meals during the May 2020 half term holidays, but was not yet committed to doing so through the summer holidays.
Calling for the scheme to be extended through the summer, Rashford wrote on Twitter, ‘This is not politics, this is humanity’, adding. ‘I don’t have the education of a politician, many on Twitter have made that clear today, but I have a social education having lived through this and having spent time with families and children most affected’.
Following Rashford’s campaign, and his ability to galvanise public opinion, on June 16th 2020, the government announced plans for a Covid Summer Food Fund for children who usually receive benefits-related free school meals.
Continuing his campaign around child hunger, in September 2020 Rashford convened a taskforce comprised of a number of supermarkets, and the charities Fareshare and the Food Foundation. The taskforce called for the expansion of free to school meals to every child from a household on universal credit; expanding the existing school holiday food programme; and increasing the value of Healthy Start voucher scheme aimed at certain parents with children under four.
Following criticism from some in the media that Rashford should keep out of politics and concentrate on football, the Manchester United player wrote an article for the right leaning Spectator magazine in September 2021. In the article, Rashford wrote, “With a shared focus, people from different cultures, nationalities, races, sexual orientations, political affiliations and religions can unite to achieve incredible things”.
Continuing Rashford wrote that he would, “be doing [my] community and my family a disservice if I did not use my platform to speak on behalf of the millions whose voices are not being heard”. He added: “Disappointingly for some, the ‘stick to football’ advice doesn’t cut it where I’m from. See, when my community had nothing to call their own, they always found something in the way of kindness to give me.”
Marcus Rashford and Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Following his campaign, Boris Johnson’s government awarded Rashford with an MBE.
However, with his huge Twitter following onside, Rashford has been keeping up the pressure on the Prime Minister. The good press Rashford achieved through this campaign, and his clear ability to rally public opinion, make him a difficult opponent for the Johnson government.
Following the announcement of the government’s U-turn on free school meals, the British Labour Party was keen to try and take credit for the policy change, with the party’s official Twitter account tweeting, “We did it! Thank you to everyone who campaigned for #Holidays Without Hunger’.
Many Twitter users were quick to comment that it was actually Rashford’s campaigning activities, rather than the efforts of the Labour Party, which had been responsible for successfully galvanizing public opinion and causing the government’s change of heart.
Marcus Rashford – Future Campaigns
Following the success of his first campaign around child poverty, there is little sign that Rashford is stopping. He has released a BBC documentary around his food poverty campaign, which featured both his mum, and him receiving a call on his mobile from the Prime Minister shortly after a game.
Rashford has recently partnered with publisher Macmillan to promote reading for disadvantaged children. Marcus is penning his own book as part of the project entitled, ‘You are a Champion: Unlock your potential, find your voice and be the best you can be’.
Commenting on his continued political activism, Rashford has said, ‘We all have a responsibility to protect our vulnerable as it could be any one of us – if 2020 has taught us anything it should be that’.
With 4.5 million Twitter followers and counting, whatever footballer, come political influencer, Marcus Rashford’s next steps are, we will be sure to hear about them.
Indeed during the course of his 2020 expedition into the field of British politics, this unelected footballer, can be said to have exerted more influence on policy, than many MPs might do in the totality of a twenty year backbench career at Westminster.
In September 2021, Marcus Rashford was publicly critical of government plans to remove the temporary £20 uplift in Universal Credit introduced at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Footballer Marcus Rashford
Born in 1997, Rashford has been on the books at Manchester United since he was 7-years-old. A boyhood United fan, Rashford is now a key part of Manchester United’s squad.
On his senior debut for the club, Rashford scored two goals in a Europa League clash against FC Midtjylland. So far, he has won the FA Cup, EFL Cup, FA Community Shield and Europa League with the club.
Manchester United star Rashford is also an England International who played for England at the 2016 Euros, as well as being part of the national team’s run to the Semi Finals in the 2018 Football World Cup. He was one of three England players who missed a penalty in the shoot out during the final of 2021 European Championships.
In 2019, Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, signed a 4 year contract with the club, one which is reported to see him earn some £10.4 million per year.
During the 2021/2022 season, Rashford was seen to be suffering from a dip in form. He was frequently not selected for the Manchester United starting line up, with a number of football commentators suggesting that his future at the club might be limited.
Twitter – @MarcusRashford